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LORD READING AND HEJ'':iE&SES 



THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

NEW YORK BOSTON CHICAGO DAULAS 
ATLANTA SAN T'RANCISCO 




LORD READING 

Reproduced by courtesy of the London 
"Evening News" 



LORD READING ^ND HIS 
CASES: the Study or^ Great 
Career ^ By DEREK WALKER-SMITH 



NEW YORK 

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 
1934 



Copyright, 7034, by 
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY. 

All rights reserved no part of this book may be 
reproduced in any form without permission in writing 
from the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes 
to quote brief passages in connection with a review 
written for inclusion in magazine or newspaper. 



l'KINTEl> IN THE UNITED STATES Ob' AMERICA 
BY THE POLYGKAPHIC COMPANY OP AMERICA, N.Y. 



AUTHOR'S NOTE 

I wish to make it clear that, although I informed Lord 
Reading of my intentions with regard to this book and 
have by his courtesy seen him from time to time in the 
course of its preparation, the book is in no way " inspired " 
by him 5 it follows that he does not take responsibility 
for its contents. The book is primarily an account of the 
principal cases in which Lord Reading figured prominently 
as counsel or judge in what is perhaps the most interesting 
period of his brilliant career. It aims to present a balanced 
and impartial estimate of the career of a man happily still 
living, and it would on that account have been clearly 
impossible to exercise the independent judgment necessary 
to such a task, if my responsibility for the book had been 
less complete. 



" The life of a great advocate 
is a social document" p. 117. 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAQB 

I. Rufus Isaacs the Man .... i 

II. Rufus Isaacs the Boy 10 

III. Apprenticeship at the Bar: a Famous 

Turf Case . . . . 20 

IV. A Growing Practice: Allen v. Flood . 33 

V. K.C., and an Incursus into Politics . . 47 

VI. A " Political " Libel Action and a Boer 

War Prosecution . . . . 59 

VII. Annus Mirabilis: the Liverpool Bank 

Case ...... 76 

VIII. The Hartopp Divorce Case and Taff Vale 92 

IX. The Gordon Custody. Case . . . 118 

X. Rise and Fall of Whittaker Wright . 133 

XI. The Reading Bye-Election of 1904: in 

Parliament . . . . .155 

XII. The Defence of Sir Edward Russell . 164 

XIII. The Liberal Triumph of 1906: the 

Trades Disputes Bill . . .179 

XIV. Rufus Isaacs and Carson: the " Gaiety 

Girl Divorce Case." . . .190 

XV. The Acquittal of "Bob" Sievier . . 209 

XVI. Commercial Magnates v. Press Lords . 220 

XVII. A Political Chapter: Solicitor-General . 235 

XVIII. The Archer-Shee Controversy . . 243 

xi 



xii CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAOB 

XIX. Troubled Politics: Parliament Bill and 

Home Rule 251 

XX. The Honour of the King . . .260 

XXL Rufus Isaacs and Marshall Hall: the 

Seddons' Trial .... 270 

XXII. The Titanic Disaster .... 297 

XXIII. Suffragettes and Trade Unions . . 316 

XXIV. The Marconi " Scandal " ... 324 
XXV. Wartime Lord Chief Justice . . . 343 

XXVL Treason and Death of Roger Casement . 353 

XXVII. Conclusion and Estimate . . . 387 

Index 393 



LORD READING AND HIS CASES 



CHAPTER I 

RUFUS ISAACS, THE MAN 

RLJFUS DANIEL ISAACS was born on October loth, 
1860. A foreigner, unacquainted with our national 
habit of cloaking the identity of our distinguished 
citizens, might perhaps be pardoned for not at once recog 
nizing him in the Marquess of Reading, P.C., G.C.B., 
G.C.V-CXj G.C,S.L, G.C.I.E. And even those, whom a 
knowledge of our peculiar application of the principle ars 
est celare art em has prepared for these transfigurations, 
might stand in amazement at the contemplation of the vast 
and varied fields of achievement which stretch between 
that cradle and the present day. For the most cursory 
glance at Rufus Isaac's career reveals two striking charac 
teristics; the magnitude of his successes and the extended 
front along which they have been achieved. His has been 
no ordinary ascent, no steady plodding up the careful stages 
of success, with eyes fixed, eager yet anxious, on the final 
goal; it has been rather a series of frontal assaults on the 
heights of attainment, and an easy passage from peak tc 
peak, the conquest of any one of which might be the life 
ambition of a skilled and daring mountaineer. 

" The world still holds glittering prizes for those whose 
courage is high and whose swords are sharp," said the late 
Lord Birkenhead in a famous Rectorial address. Attorney- 
General; Lord Chief Justice; Special Envoy; Ambassador; 
Viceroy; Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; all these 
glittering prizes were gained by one who at fifteen was a 
cabin-boy and at twenty-five a failure in his chosen pro 
fession. It is a very notable illustration of the truth of 
Lord Birkenhead's virile doctrine. Yet it is not easy to 
fit Lord Reading to the role of apostle of glittering prizes. 
That his courage is high and his sword is sharp has been 

I 



2 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

proved on various occasions 5 but he has drawn his sword 
only when he has had need of it, and, save to draw^it, his 
hand has never been on the hilt. His stamina, too, is of^a 
calm, self-reliant quality, which has not sought expression in 
words 5 but it is tempered like true steel, keen and strong 
and unbreakable. His slim figure, upright and taut still in 
the seventies, his handsome, chiselled features, his keen eye 
and lofty forehead, are the embodiment of distinction and 
intellectual prowess; they are their own passport and need 
no advertisement. He has, too, a charm of manner which 
is famous, a charm which consists not so much in a boisterous 
hail-fellow-well-met camaraderie, as in a quieter and more 
insinuating form. It won him considerable and instan 
taneous popularity among those who came into contact with 
him at the Bar or in politics, in America or in India, which 
was yielded to him almost without reluctance even by those 
to whom his political principles and his race were alike 
anathema. The possessor of such qualities found that he 
did not need to assess his qualities or his services in terms 
of glittering prizes j he merely smiled his way unscathed 
through life, to be crowned with one of the most richly 
jewelled diadems of attainment that have adorned the brow 
of any Englishman of this generation. He did not need to 
make claims for himself 5 he was promoted to high office 
because he was a man of ability, who had succeeded. Suc 
cess breeds success, and, what is just as important, a univer 
sal recognition of ability. So it has been with Lord Reading. 
Omnium consensu capax imperii. 

It would be wrong to assume from this that Lord Reading 
achieved his career without the prick of ambition. For 
ambition, in one sense, is merely the spur which gives direc 
tive energy to a man's abilities, and the curb which keeps 
him to the steady pursuit of things significant and saves 
him from that dissipation of energies which is the mark 
of the dilettante. With this sort of ambition Lord Reading 
was well endowed. Lady Oxford, whose opinion is entitled 
to respect as one who for half-a-century has had an 
intimate knowledge of men and affairs, has placed it on 



RUFUS ISAACS, THE MAN 3 

record that Lord Reading is one of the four most ambitious 
men of her acquaintance. If she uses the word in the rather 
colourless sense indicated above, then the view is clearly 
unexceptionable j but if she uses the word in any more tech 
nical sense her opinion challenges analysis and question. 
What of ambition in this, the vulgar, sense? It is fairly 
clear that Rufus Isaacs never pursued a single goal of 
attainment, to which he directed all effort and subordinated 
all activity. He was rather, in a sense, an opportunist, 
determined to develop and to exploit his abilities, and 
anxious to find the best field for their exercise. This in 
volved experiment and empiricism, and as such was agree 
able to an adventurous nature, which loved variety and liked 
better to operate in a wide and generous sphere than to 
follow the straitened path of a single ambition. Every 
phase of his life illustrates the truth of this. As a boy he 
ran away to sea, instead of winning the scholarships which 
are the more conventional prelude to the Woolsack j the 
law itself, the practice of which was to bring him much 
wealth and distinction, was adopted as a second choice at the 
age of twenty-seven. At the age of forty-nine, by becoming 
a law officer of the Crown, he cut himself off from the 
immensely lucrative practice of his profession, and less than 
four years later, after being in politics for scarcely ten years, 
he denied himself the opportunity of further political 
advancement by accepting the office of Lord Chief Justice. 
In the prime of active life, that is to say, with the spirit of 
adventurous ambition still strong within him, he condemned 
himself to all appearances to a lifetime in the honourable, 
useful and quiet detachment of the Bench. 

These things require explanation ; and in the explanation 
will be found the keynote to Rufus Isaacs' career and an 
indication of the strength, the quality and the limitations of 
his equipment. In the first place it will be noticed that the 
bulk of the offices held by him are associated with politics j 
yet Rufus Isaacs was never primarily a politician, at least 
in our accustomed sense of the word. He did not fight an 
election campaign till he was forty, and he was nearing his 



4 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

forty-fourth birthday before he obtained a seat in Parlia 
ment. He sat for five and a half years as a private member 
in that House of Commons which calls out the greatest 
efforts of ambitious men, and made comparatively few 
speeches 5 he always had the attention of the House, but 
never attempted to make any great impression there. He 
was in fact never a " House of Commons man." The 
reason for this was twofold, arising partly from equipment 
and partly from inclination. His style of speaking was 
forensic j lucid, subtle and persuasive, he was adept at 
picking out the features in a case which were at once signi 
ficant and favourable, and driving them home with great 
force of argument. It was these qualities which made him 
so supremely successful both as an advocate before a jury 
and in arguments directed to the consideration of the Bench j 
for the jury want instruction and guidance in performing 
their duty, while the Bench is concerned solely to hear the 
case argued and is not interested in language or in emotional 
considerations. In the House of Commons, especially in 
the stormy period in which Rufus Isaacs sat, it is widely 
different j every member embodies his own personal prin 
ciples, passions and prejudices, and, in addition, officially as 
it were, the principles, passions and prejudices of his con 
stituents and of his party. The atmosphere, therefore, is 
widely different from that of the Law Courts, and members 
expect, in the ordinary default of original thought, either a 
certain warmth and passion to be introduced, or that a dry 
theme be adorned with eloquence. (Of late years there has 
been a strong tendency to create in the House of Commons 
the dry businesslike, detached atmosphere of the Courts, 
with what measure of success those who are familiar with 
the House may judge for themselves j Rufus Isaacs, how 
ever, left the House of Commons in 1913.) With neither of 
these two requirements did Rufus Isaacs comply; he had 
always a great belief in the efficacy of argument between 
reasonable men, and the introduction of strong feeling could 
only debase argument and make men less reasonable. " I 
think," he said in one of his Viceregal speeches, when re- 



RUFUS ISAACS, THE MAN 5 

ferring to a personal interview with Mr Gandhi, " two men 
cannot exchange ideas and discuss problems without 
deriving some benefit to either side." The passage is 
revealing, for it illustrates that belief in negotiation which 
has been a lifetime characteristic ; but it is an attitude which, 
unless enforced by the robuster quality of whole-hearted 
advocacy, must often carry less weight than perhaps it 
deserves in a democratically elected assembly. Nor were 
Rufus Isaacs' speeches eloquent in respect of verbal felicityj 
they relied for their effect on their lucidity of argument, 
their command of the facts, and the personality of the 
speaker. Of verbal adornment and literary quality there is 
little trace; they are speeches to hear rather than to read, 
a vehicle for argument, rather than a medium of literary 
expression. He had neither the tempestuous imagery of a 
Bright or a Lloyd George, with its literary inspiration in 
the Bible, nor the perfect classical periods of a Burke or an 
Asquith, moulded on the orators of Greece and Rome. 

Now if these things are detrimental to the chances of 
success in the House of Commons, they are clearly far more 
so in respect of the public platform ; and since to be a leading 
politician it is essential to have a good platform style, here 
is another- reason why Rufus Isaacs was not equipped to be 
primarily a politician. But this brings us to the other, and 
deeper, question of inclination and temperament j for, 
though it is possible to imagine Rufus Isaacs wishing to be 
a " House of Commons man," he was temperamentally no 
more inclined to platform oratory than to the role of belli 
gerent apostle of glittering prizes. In a democratic com 
munity, the politician must be, amongst other things, a 
platform speaker, who can establish emotional contact with 
his audience j to do this he may employ either the eloquence 
of the Gladstonian period, or the verbose taciturnity of a 
later day, which consists in long speeches, calculated to 
assure the audience that the speaker is a proper representative 
of a tongue-tied nation. One or other of these methods 
he must adopt, and neither were methods suited to the tem 
perament and equipment of Rufus Isaacs. 



6 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

Now we have been so long a democratic community that 
we virtually take it for granted that a man ambitious of 
serving the State in public affairs must, except in the case 
of a small and favoured minority, follow the well-worn 
tracks of political advancement. In point of fact this is far 
from being of universal application $ we are not like the 
Athenians, governed direct from the assembly, nor do we 
attempt to administer an empire from the market place. It 
is still possible to rise high in the State without being a 
leader of the people. And this is what Lord Reading has 
done; he is by temperament, and has been in fact, a ruler, 
not a leader, of men. A leader of men is associated with 
causes, with those causes in which he has believed so strongly 
and so profoundly that he has exerted his powers of leader 
ship to the full to rally men to themj such a man is Lord 
Carson, Rufus Isaacs 5 great contemporary and forensic rival, 
whose name is immortally coupled with the great struggle 
on behalf of Ulster. The ruler of men on the other hand 
is connected with administration or reform ; and the name 
of Lord Reading suggests the tenure of legal office, the 
despatch of delicate diplomatic negotiations, and the admini 
stration of a province, which is unrivalled alike in the magni 
tude of its extent and in the complexity of its problems. 

It follows from this that Lord Reading is not altogether 
a democrat. He believes in government in the interest of 
the people, and even in government delegated from the 
people. But the exercise of his talents has not depended 
on the accident of his having been born into a democratic 
community. In the Middle Ages, Rufus Isaacs would 
(putting aside the question of race) have been a counsellor 
of kings and a governor of provinces, whereas the bulk of 
democratic leaders might never in such conditions have 
emerged from obscurity. His rarest abilities have lain in 
negotiation and conciliation, in putting a case and winning 
the hearts of small groups of men, and these are qualities 
which the eye of the responsible individual is quicker to 
detect than the instinct of the democracy j and he is possessed 
neither of the platform nor of that identification with the 



RUFUS ISAACS, THE MAN 7 

aspirations, characteristics and even shortcomings of the 
people, which is the real sense in which democratic leaders 
are representative of the electorate. Subtlety of mind, 
charm of address, calmness of outlook and firmness, not 
advertised by bluster but cloaked by courtesy } these are pre 
eminently the qualities of Lord Reading. From the time 
when his office disjoined him from party, successive govern 
ments have recognised his gift for negotiation and have 
utilised it by sending him on important diplomatic missions 
for which a party politician would have been less suitable. 
It is indeed quite possible that, had he been born within the 
charmed circle, Rufus Isaacs would have followed a career 
of diplomacy. But, had he done that, the law would have 
been immeasurably the loser, while, owing to this country's 
habit of entrusting important diplomatic missions to people 
outside the ranks of professional diplomacy, the country 
would not have been greatly the gainer. 

Lord Reading is, as has been said, in some sense of the 
word, an opportunist} therefore he has throughout his 
career recognised the importance of the work in hand for 
its own sake. This does not necessarily mean that principles 
and causes have made no appeal to him 5 but it does mean 
that constitutionally he is better adapted to finding the best 
means to arrive at an end that is not in dispute than to 
devise the end itself. Consequently, although he has been 
a Liberal all his political life, he has always been detached 
in controversy} he is no partisan, and suspects the effects 
of the passions of partisans on the chances of reasonable 
settlement. This detachment, which appears remarkable in 
view of the whole-hearted vigour, amounting sometimes to 
lack of restraint, practised by politicians in the decade before 
the Great War, is a result partly of temperament, but also 
the effect of his race. 

Lord Reading is a Jew} a Jew by birth, temperament, 
and preference. Throughout his life he has been devotedly 
proud of the race from which he springs, and unswervingly 
loyal to it. His qualities, too, are those of his race} and no 
account of him can be complete, or even comprehensible, 



8 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

which does not take into consideration the racial factor. The 
Jew inevitably surveys national problems in greater detach 
ment, for he sees them against a different background; a 
Jew, for instance, whose people had been without a national 
home for centuries, could not feel the burning passion on 
the question of Irish Home Rule, which has consumed 
generations of Englishmen and Irishmen. A Jew, too, 
whose people had preserved their religion for centuries amid 
fierce persecution, might be forgiven for thinking that in the 
eye of History, Welsh Disestablishment would loom con 
siderably less large than it did to excited partisans in 1912, 
It is this quality of balanced perspective that Lord Reading 
has always had In a superlative degree; it was clear to him, 
as being emotionally further from the scene than the other 
actors, that some of the dramas which were being played 
out with such intensity of feeling were of more transitory 
interest than appeared, and that the final working out would 
gain infinitely if there were more calmness and less feeling. 
That this attitude was correct is in many cases apparent 
after the lapse of years ; but it would perhaps be demanding 
too much of those who were near to events to expect of them 
the retrospective calm of the historian, or the detached 
reasonableness of the spectator* It is perhaps due as much 
as anything to the fact that he did not altogether share the 
emotional outlook of his countrymen that Lord Reading has 
been a ruler rather than a leader, for he is not close enough 
in temperament to the ordinary man to be representative of 
him in the sense in which, for instance, Mr Baldwin is held 
to be at the present day, or Lord Palmerston was in the 
nineteenth century. Here again this is partly due to race, 
for it is not natural for Jews to be quite representative of the 
national characteristics and aspirations of any people; rulers 
and administrators they often are, and are to be found, too, 
generally among the first in the arts, the sciences and the 
professions, but not as leaders and inspirers of a great 
national, democratic community. The obvious exception to 
this rule is more apparent than real. For Disraeli was not 
only a Jew, but an Oriental, and it was the Oriental in him 



RUFUS ISAACS, THE MAN 9 

which captured the popular imagination ; the philosophy, 
too, which he gave to the British people was one which 
clothed fundamentally British ideas with the more gorgeous 
garment of an exotic inspiration. But Lord Reading is an 
Occidental, and a lawyer ; a man of affairs, romantic in his 
achievement rather than in his ideas. So to him it has been 
given less to inspire and to lead, than to advise, to administer 
and to rule. 

^ So there we have him; a ruler rather than a leader, a 
diplomat rather than a politician. Incisive in reasoning, 
lucid in exposition, sagacious in counsel, fertile in resource, 
he has united in himself many of the great qualities of the 
Bench and Bar. Lofty but not aloof, detached but not dis 
tant, the flavour of his personality seems rare and delightful j 
his charm of manner has won for him many friends and 
much admiration. In private life his devotion to his family 
is considerable, and he has had two ideally happy marriages, 
one in youth and one in age; to the Jewish race his loyalty 
has been conspicuous. In public life he brought to the 
affairs of State those qualities of mind and character which, 
united with self-discipline, tireless devotion, and enthusi 
astic assiduity, had served his clients so well in the Courts; 
over twenty years of public life have scarcely dulled that 
enthusiasm nor blunted his abilities. Set-backs and disap 
pointments there inevitably have been, but remarkably few; 
and they have been the fewer because he has always contem 
plated his private fortunes with that sense of perspective 
which has served him in public affairs, and encountered 
reverses and recovered from them with that supple and 
resilient strength which is foremost in the arsenal of his 
equipment. Honours there have been and high office in 
ever-increasing abundance 5 high office has provided a field 
for the exercise of his abilities, and honours are the sign 
and symbol that those abilities have wrought not unsuccess 
fully in varied fields. Truly, a man whom the gods have 
loved j but he has borne himself with a modesty that has 
not challenged the nemesis which the gods too often visit 
on their favourites. 



CHAPTER II 



THE well-known story of Rufus Isaacs as cabin-boy 
has given rise to a very widely-spread belief that he 
was born in humble circumstances. In fact this is not 
so y his going to sea was an early manifestation of adven- 
turousness of spirit, and not due to economic pressure. He 
was born in London in October, 1860, of Jewish parents in 
a substantial way of business. His father, Joseph Isaacs, 
had a family business of fruit-broking in the City, which 
still flourishes under the direction of Rufus 5 brother, Harry 
Isaacs. His father's brother, Henry Isaacs, who was also in 
the City, subsequently attained the ultimate goal of civic 
ambition by becoming Lord Mayor of London. His mother, 
Sara Woolf, was also the daughter of a Jewish merchant in 
the Cityj consequently Rufus Isaacs came of pure Jewish 
stock, and inherited on both sides the commercial tradition 
of his race. 

Rufus was one of three sons. Of his brothers, Godfrey, 
the younger, who became a financier, is since dead, but the 
elder,^ Harry, who resembles his brother in his youthful 
and vigorous appearance, though in the seventies, is still a 
familiar figure in the City and in the Reform Club. His 
sister married the late Mr Sutro, the famous dramatist. 
The affection between the children was great, for Rufus 
had and retained to a highly developed extent the racial 
characteristic of strong family affection. We shall see how 
his mother's influence and affectionate insistence served him 
at a turning-point of his life. 

At an early age Rufus was sent with Harry to a Jewish 
preparatory school. But he made no effort to emulate the 
childish precocity of Macaulay, of whom the story is told 
how, on being asked at the age of three by a lady visitor 

IO 



RUFUS ISAACS, THE BOY n 

whether his toothache was better, replied with dignity, " I 
thank you, madam 5 the agony is abated." The young 
Rufus, on the contrary, did not lisp very effectively in num 
bers j for all that he was obviously quick-witted, the child 
steadily refused to be father of the Lord Chief Justice. He 
had, however, as a compensation to his pastors and masters, 
great vitality and an inexhaustible taste for mischief. This 
is a combination with which schoolmasters are traditionally 
expected to cope, but Rufus' efforts were so ably seconded 
by Harry that the unusual result ensued of the headmaster 
finding himself forced to confess that the boys were unman 
ageable. He wrote, therefore, to their father to ask that 
they should be withdrawn, and the two brothers were locked 
in a room to await the arrival of their parents to remove 
them in disgrace. So unimpressed, however, were the two 
little boys by the solemn character of the occasion that they 
improved upon it by throwing all the furniture out of the 
window. And so it was into a bare room, sparsely but 
effectively inhabited by two flushed, wide-eyed little boys, 
that the headmaster ushered Mr and Mrs Isaacs as a prelude 
to their withdrawing their unsatisfactory offspring from his 
charge. 

When he had thus stamped the impress of his personality 
on English education, it was decided to give Rufus a wider 
field for his activities, and he was sent to school in Brussels. 
Here a welcome improvement was early indicated by his 
winning of the $rix de memoire in his first term, an almost 
incredible feat for a small English child in his first term at 
a foreign school j it turned out to be, however, only the 
first instance of that astonishing power of memory which 
was to be among Rufus Isaacs' chief assets at the Bar. It 
may be assumed that the inevitable loneliness and shyness 
of that first term away not only from his parents but from his 
country and his language, made work appear for the first 
time in the new light of a solace and a distraction. The 
improvement was to some extent maintained, though it may 
be assumed that his liveliness soon reasserted itself when 
the strangeness of his new surroundings had worn off. tie 



12 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

continued abroad for a time, but it was his parents' intention 
that he should have his secondary education in England, 
and consequently his name was entered for the University 
College School in London, 

The school, which was then and is now a day-school, had 
not in 1873 when Rufus Isaacs went there, moved to its 
present extensive premises in Frognal. It was then con 
centrated in a smaller space in Gower Street near to the 
buildings of University College, with which at the time 
the school maintained a very close connection. Rufus was 
thirteen when he entered the school, and though there is no 
suggestion that he was the ideal schoolboy (a circumstance 
which there is no need to regret) he had already shown that 
he was possessed of an acute and ready mind. It would 
have been a legitimate assumption to suppose that from the 
age of thirteen onwards Rufus would have been increasingly 
attracted to his books j and had this been the case, so intelli 
gent a boy must certainly have scored considerable academic 
success. Towards the end of his school career, the authorities 
would have advised his parents to let him compete for a 
scholarship at Oxford, and Rufus might easily have found 
himself an undergraduate in the late 'seventies. HOW he 
would have liked Oxford is conjectural, but it is certain 
that a community which acknowledges social and intellectual 
qualities all the more readily because they are neglected 
somewhat during school life, would have accorded a ready 
welcome to the charm of manner and intellectual possibilities 
of the youthful Rufus Isaacs. And from Oxford his path 
would have lain, clearly and smoothly, to the career of the 
Bar and politics, which he ultimately followed. 

So it might well have been. And so indeed might a boy, 
who was one day to be Lord Chief Justice and Viceroy, have 
planned it to be. But Rufus Isaacs was a boy who followed 
his own bent, and he put the youthful gods of adventure 
on a higher plane than the more settled and sombre deities 
of adult distinction. His career at University College 
School was short and, scholastically speaking, undistin 
guished. The records contain no proud reference to 



RUFUS ISAACS, THE BOY 13 

glittering prizes, but the memory of his contemporaries at 
the school is of a lively boy, not very unlike an older 
edition of the child who had thrown the furniture out of 
the window. But Rufus was now old enough to know that 
throwing one's headmaster's furniture out of the window is 
scarcely discreet, however diverting an occupation it may be, 
and his early departure from the University College School 
was in no way compulsory. It is commonly supposed that 
Rufus Isaacs ran away from school to go to sea; this is not 
quite accurate. In point of fact, he was withdrawn from 
the University College School in order to pursue his edu 
cation abroad, and it was after he had spent some time at 
Hanover studying languages that he returned to England 
and formed the resolution, conventional in a certain type of 
exciting fiction, but unusual in future Lord Chief Justices, 
of going to sea. 

Going to sea to serve on a small ship is one of the things 
that is still practically as exciting as it used to be. Rufus 
Isaacs found on the ship in which he was signed on as 
cabin-boy, that there was much hardship and some danger 
to stimulate an excitement that might otherwise have 
flagged., The captain of the Blair Atholl was a mariner of 
the old school, hard, tyrannical, unsympathetic, a believer 
in the divine right of constituted authority and commendably 
free from modern notions of sentiment. The crew, and the 
cabin-boy amongst them, suffered considerably in words, 
blows, and hard treatment at the hands of this martinet 5 
but it did have the effect of making the crew a trade- 
union of fellow-sufferers, and it is possible that the sympathy 
thus engendered saved Rufus from a certain amount of 
rough usage from potential disciplinarians lower down in the 
maritime hierarchy. It also happened that when the crew, 
sore beset and greatly daring, decided to send a deputation 
to the captain, they appointed Rufus Isaacs as their spokes 
man. The somewhat unnatural selection of the cabin-boy 
to fill this important role requires explanation; but it must 
remain a matter for conjecture whether Rufus was chosen 
because nobody else dared risk the captain's wrath and he 



14 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

was not in a position to refuse the proffered honour, or 
because they thought that Rufus' youthful charm of manner 
might melt the captain's heart or whether it was that instinct 
had supplemented the expert knowledge, which they were 
not in a position to possess, and had whispered that their 
cabin-boy was to be the foremost advocate of his generation. 
However that may be, Rufus addressed the captain at length 
on behalf of the crew; marshalling facts and arguments, he 
adroitly mingled exposition, persuasion and appeal in a 
manner that was to become famous in the High Court. The 
upshot was that the captain relented, and Rufus Isaacs had 
won his first important case, for it is not recorded that he 
addressed the Court on his own behalf on the occasion when 
the furniture was thrown out of the window. 

After this signal triumph, Rufus not unnaturally became 
of more consequence in the eyes of the crew, though his 
status still lacked distinction, and the captain, being of the 
old school, had his own view on forensic cabin-boys. The 
Blair Atholl was bound for South America, where it found 
a cargo awaiting transport to India.- The arrival of the 
ship in India bespoke romance of a different sort, romance 
that lay in the future, beckoning him to a destiny hidden 
as yet and unsuspected. For as the ship came slowly up thje 
Hoogly, the cabin-boy saw from the deck for the first time 
the shores of that great, mysterious land which years later 
he returned to govern. There were no intervening visits, 
and in his viceregal speech on landing Lord Reading com 
memorated this first and other visit, and with it the fact that 
the age of romantic achievement is not entirely past. 

It had been a gay adventure, but Rufus Isaacs was not 
to spend his life at sea 5 and it was time now to turn his 
thoughts to the quieter, but more sustained and no less 
enthralling adventure of life. 

For a short time he went to Magdeburg to look after the 
interests of the family business in Germany. Continuance 
in the family business would have spelt security, a chance of 
substantial prosperity, and comparative freedom from 
anxiety. But Harry was already destined for the family 



RUFUS ISAACS, THE BOY 15 

business, and Rufus' zest for adventure was still strong, 
demanding more exciting possibilities than that of security. 
The Stock Exchange seemed a more attractive proposition 
than business, and Rufus' keen intelligence and quick wits 
held forth promise that he might well make a success of 
that profession 5 consequently he became a clerk to a firm of 
stockbrokers with a view to himself becoming a member of 
the Stock Exchange when he should come of age. 

And so Rufus Isaacs spent that time when had he 
remained at school he would no doubt have been at Oxford, 
working in his firm of stockbrokers in London. He was 
more industrious now, for he was beginning to be ambitious, 
and the chain of causation between work and success was 
forged more clearly in his mind. It seemed indeed highly 
probable that in time he would make a conspicuous success 
of his profession 3 on coming of age, he was admitted to 
membership of the Stock Exchange, and for a while pros 
pered there. The course of his life seemed clear $ he would 
make an early and enduring success on the Stock Exchange, 
and follow without deviation the path of prosperity that 
appeared to lie open before him. So it might well have 
been, and so in the early 'eighties it appeared that it would 
be 5 in which case the world would never have heard of 
Rufus Isaacs. But, just as he had been switched off his 
apparent course when he went abroad and again when he 
went to sea, so now his destiny did not let him follow the 
easy path; he was reserved for greater things and the pass 
age to them seldom lies exclusively by still waters. 

He had chosen his profession in part because of its un 
certainty and its excitement. In 1884 he had experience of 
the less pleasant manifestations of these qualities; in a crisis 
on the Stock Exchange he found himself unable to meet his 
obligations, and this, of course, meant disaster. It is well- 
known that defaulting, through no fault of one's own, on 
the Stock Exchange implies no moral censure (and it should 
perhaps be stated here at once that, when his earnings at the 
Bar made it possible, Rufus Isaacs paid his creditors in full). 
But we may legitimately be surprised that a person of the 



1 6 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

acumen of which Rufus Isaacs showed himself to be 
possessed, should have fared so badly $ such a circumstance 
does not, however, of necessity cast a slight upon his acumen. 
For success on the Stock Exchange is not exactly analogous 
to success at the Bar, which is a fairly accurate index to 
industry and ability j success on the Stock Exchange, on the 
other hand, involves not only doing the right thing but 
doing it at the right time. It is not enough, that is to say, 
to know what is going to happen j one must know, in addi 
tion, the precise moment when it is going to happen, and 
that unfortunately depends on a knowledge of when the 
other stockbrokers will realise what is going to happen. 
The danger, in short, is that a man of superior intellect and 
quick perception will fail in his " timing " because he will 
give credit to the mass, on the working of whose minds the 
movement depends, for as sharp an insight as his own; and 
while a certain anticipation is good, to be too far-sighted is 
as fatal as an inability to keep up. That wise man of affairs, 
Mr E. S. P. Haynes, whose shrewd knowledge of the world 
is seldom at fault, has summed up the situation when he 
says: " Many an intelligent man has been hammered on 
the Stock Exchange because he relied on other brokers 
being as quick-witted as himself." 

These considerations are perhaps apparent on reflection, 
but they would be poor consolation to a young man of 
twenty-four, who is faced with the disturbing realisation that 
he has failed in his chosen calling, even if moments of 
sudden and crushing adversity were notoriously not condu 
cive to calm and logical reflection. To Rufus Isaacs the 
blow was heavy and unexpected. It came, too, with a 
finality that was new in his life. Hitherto, life had been 
a gay ad venture j the Stock Exchange, no doubt, was on a 
lower plane of pure adventure than the sea, but it had 
shared with it moments of excitement, risk and triumph. 
Set-backs there had been, but they had been ephemeral, and 
had acted as a spur to further efforts and a spice to future 
triumphs. But this reverse was serious, and had a new, 
disturbing possibility of permanence j it revealed adventure 



RUFUS ISAACS, THE BOY 17 

and uncertainty, hitherto seen as more light-hearted things, 
in a cruel, unrelenting and rather frightening aspect. The 
outlook for Rufus was bleak and forbidding. " Oh to be 
twenty-two! " said the late Charles Masterman on one 
occasion, " no-one's a failure at twenty-two. 55 But it 
looked perilously as if Rufus Isaacs might be a failure at 
twenty-four. To live on in England under the shadow of 
failure was not a prospect to attract an ambitious young man. 
In retrospect two or three years in failure and adversity 
may seem no very great thing; but at the time the feeling of 
humiliation and despair may be strong and insistent, and 
there is no guarantee that it will be temporary. But there 
was an alternative to staying in England; through the ages 
adventurous spirits, whom Fortune has treated none too 
kindly, have felt the call of the New World. Rufus Isaacs 
had previously been adventurous, and now Fortune had 
turned her back on him. He would go to America, where 
at least he could start anew. Thither the finger of fortune 
seemed to beckon 5 and it was not his custom to neglect its 
signal. 

Once again we are tempted to speculate on what would 
have happened if Rufus Isaacs had followed the course which 
seemed to lie before him. That he would have been suc 
cessful in America is very probable; indeed it is unlikely 
that he would have failed ultimately to make a success of 
anything to which he turned his hand, for he is built of the 
very stuff of achievement. But that success must almost 
certainly have lain in business ; he would not have practised 
at the American Bar nor could he very well have played 
any part in public life. His life then might well have been 
successful, but it must have been widely different from what 
it has been, and greatly inferior to it in distinction; once 
again the world might never have heard of Rufus Isaacs. 
But Destiny had a greater future in store for him than that 
of being a successful business man in a strange land, and to 
that end brought pressure to bear on him of a sort that he 
could scarcely resist. For, when his decision to go was 
already taken, his mother came to him and pleaded with 



1 8 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

him not to cut himself off from his family, his country and 
his friends ; she was convinced that if his desire was to go 
to the Bar, then that was the proper field for his talents, 
and she told him that his parents would assist him to that 
end. The appeal was not to be refused, and perhaps his 
mother's faith helped to kindle the glow of enthusiasm for 
the Bar in his own heart. Maternal judgments about their 
sons' futures are notoriously fond and optimistic; but in 
this case the prophecy erred on the side of understatement. 
For not even the eye of maternal faith could envisage the 
glorious future which the success of her prayer was opening 
out to her son. 

The passage to the Bar, not difficult to-day, was consider 
ably easier in the 'eighties. There were examinations to 
pass, and these he passed ; but he was too untrained in the 
academic tradition to distinguish himself in the acquisition 
of honours or prizes. Terms, however, had to be kept too, 
and this was done by partaking in the ancient rite of dining 
in mess in Hall, popularly known as " eating dinners." 
Rufus had joined the Middle Temple, and so he dined in 
the lovely old Middle Temple Hall with its gallery, its 
coats-of-arms around the wall, and its magnificent Van 
Dyck hanging on the far wall over the high table ; here, 
too, he would stand up and watch the stately procession of 
Masters of the Bench, veterans of Bench and Bar, proceeding 
to and from the dais on which the high table is placed. Not 
twenty years later he too became a member of that procession 
and dined in the seats of the mighty. 

But this lay in the future. For the moment he was 
occupied with the humble task of qualifying for the Bar, to 
which he was called in 1887. In 1887, therefore, he stood 
on the threshold of his new life; he could not expect that 
the struggle would be short or the victory easy, for he was 
challenging the competition of rare intellects and great 
talents. But he no longer stood alone, for in this year he 
married Alice Cohen, third daughter of Albert Cohen, who 
was connected with the Welsbach Lighter Company. It so 
happened that their journey through life together was 



RUFUS ISAACS, THE BOY 19 

attended by a success that swelled into the more resounding 
notes of triumph. But that, one feels, was immaterial, for 
their union was as much independent of material greatness 
as it was potent in producing it. The great felicity and per 
fect sympathy of their marriage lasted for over forty years, 
until dissipated only at last by her death in 1930. 



CHAPTER III 

APPRENTICESHIP AT THE BAR: A FAMOUS RACING CASE 

THE practice of the law attracts to itself a large and 
varied congregation of acolytes. Men of ambition 
and ability turn to it with their eyes on the prizes of 
the profession; the dilettante anchors to it his somewhat 
fluttering pursuit of literature or the arts. The man of 
education follows it because his education has fitted him 
for it 5 the man of no education aspires to it in the hope 
of being educated in the process. And yet among the varied 
types who throng its halls there exists the camaraderie of a 
great self-confident trade-union, whose laws are mainly the 
inherited tradition of etiquette and not formal rules in black 
and white. As becomes it, old and new are curiously mingled. 
There is great reverence for ancient precedent, but the 
authority of the greatest judgment may be overturned in 
the tag-end of any weary night at Westminster; the mingling 
extends even to legal architecture, for the profession is pur 
sued partly in grand, sombre old buildings/ which have 
stood the test of time, and partly in the neo-Gothic 
erections of the later Victorian period. But there is in the 
gardens and courts of the Temple an almost collegiate 
atmosphere which breathes the corporate spirit of an institu 
tion, that evokes loyalty rather than demands it; and that 
loyalty is no small thing, for in the honourable and efficient 
conduct of the law lies the very basis and foundation stone 
of the structure of a civilised society. 

It is a profession where many are called and few indeed 
are chosen; necessarily so, for the prizes are limited, and the 
competition of rare talents is strenuous and unrelenting. In 
entering late for so arduous a race, Rufus Isaacs was undeni 
ably acting boldly, nor were his qualifications exactly those 

2O 



APPRENTICESHIP AT THE BAR 21 

that are normally looked for in one who is a potential success 
at the Bar. He had not had the conventional schooling 
and academic training which is the normal prelude to such 
success ; and a casual observer, anxious to gauge the future 
chances of the initiates of the 'eighties ^ might have been 
pardoned for overlooking Rufus Isaacs in favour of those 
younger men, supported by money and legal connections 
and with the backing behind them of youthful triumphs at 
the Union or in the Schools. But there is an education 
other than that of the Universities and a training other 
than that in scholarship j Rufus Isaacs had ^ not the 
intensive training of classical culture, but his training had 
ranged over a wide and varied field of experience. Indeed 
the dictum, used by a speaker in addressing an Oxford 
Society might perhaps be applied to Rufus Isaacs: " You 
have graduated in this great university of Oxford: I have 
graduated in the still greater university of Life." He had 
followed the path of adventure, and emerged with a keen 
mind, strong courage, and a muscular intensity of purpose. 
He had, too, as a result of the Stock Exchange, a specialised 
knowledge of business which his competitors lacked; he was 
at home in the intricacies of commerce, and could unravel 
the complicated mysteries of statistics. And so the observer, 
on looking closer, would have prophesied for him an almost 
certain success in commercial cases, and possible triumphs in 
a larger arena. 

A barrister's years as a junior are normally of immense 
interest to himself, but a little tedious in the narration; 
(though it might incidentally be mentioned that the con 
versation of many young barristers reveals a pre-occupation 
with the former fact, to the entire exclusion of the latter). 
On being called to the Bar, a man will spend twelve months 
as a pupil in chambers. During this probationary period, 
he will be employed in devilling cases and looking up 
points for the man whose pupil he is and probably for other 
barristers in the chambers in addition. At the end ot his 
time as a pupil, he may, if he is lucky, remain where he is, 
but more probably he sets up in chambers on his own some- 



22 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

where else. His position is then equal to that of the other 
occupants of the Chambers, for he pays his share of the rent 
for the Chambers and for the clerk instead of his former 
fee as a pupil; but in all probability he will for a time find 
himself considerably less occupied than he was as a pupil, 
for the arrival of briefs in a young barrister's chambers is a 
slow and an occasional process. The briefs, when they do 
come, are generally for the County Court or the Police 
Court, and concern small debts, petty crime, poor persons' 
divorce, maintenance cases and running-down cases. This 
class of work may perhaps be varied by cases in the High 
Court, but in these " silk " will generally be briefed and the 
junior's duties will be more in the preliminary work of pre 
paring the pleadings and making applications than in the 
actual conduct of the case in Court. A junior's practice may 
be varied, interesting and remunerative, but the exciting 
part of a great advocate's career comes in the main after he 
has exchanged the stuff gown of the junior for the silk one 
of a King's Counsel. 

Rufus Isaacs went as a pupil into the chambers of the 
veteran Sir Harry Poland, who laid down the rule for him: 
" Never come to the Temple later than 10 a.m., and never 
leave it before 6 p.m." In later life Lord Reading assured 
Sir Harry that he had always acted on the rule. He 
made, too, an early association with Mr (afterwards 
Sir John) Lawson Walton. Lawson Walton was the 
son of a Nonconformist minister and had the some 
what narrow vision of his training, but he united to 
it the assiduity and tenacity of purpose which are 
equally characteristic of his stock. He was, too, a humane 
man, and his relations with Rufus Isaacs, both as mentor 
and later as competitor and antagonist, were always friendly. 
Like Rufus Isaacs he was a Liberal, and, after the long 
Liberal exile from office, he became Attorney-General in 
Campbell-Bannerman's administration in 1906. It was 
Lawson Walton who said of Rufus Isaacs: " He is the only 
man I know who has not had to go through the grind of 
Quarter-Sessions and the County Court like the rest of us." 



APPRENTICESHIP AT THE BAR 23 

The remark is, of course, somewhat of an exaggeration, and 
is not a summary of his early career, which Lord Reading 
entirely endorses. It was prompted, however, by the extra 
ordinarily rapid rise which Rufus Isaacs did in fact make, 
for he was only a member of the junior Bar for just over 
ten years, and in the later years of it had a most lucrative 
and exacting practice. But neither he nor anybody else could 
step straight into a large High Court' practice, and in those 
early years the County Court saw a good deal of him. 
Amongst other Courts in which he appeared was the City 
of London Court, which is a sort of glorified County Court. 
This Court was in those days presided over by the famous 
Commissioner Kerr, who spoke in an extremely broad Scot 
tish accent and was apt to cite on all occasions the practice 
of Scotland as an example. On one occasion when Isaacs 
was appearing before him, his opponent asked Kerr for a 
certificate for the highest costs. This was refused with the 
remark that they never gave such high costs in Scotland. 

" Then that, I suppose," said the disappointed counsel, 
" is why so many Scotch advocates come South." 

But the ordinary round of small cases was early inter 
rupted for Rufus Isaacs by his appearance as junior counsel 
in 1888 in the famous racing suit, brought by Sir George 
Chetwynd against Lord Durham. The case is significant in 
Rufus Isaacs' career for several reasons. In the first place, 
it gave him the opportunity of studying a brief in a com 
plicated case, which was entirely concerned with a subject 
of which he had very little previous knowledge j but he 
took immense pains to familiarise himself with all the tech 
nicalities of the study of form, for he was early aware that 
a knowledge of the law is only part of the equipment of 
the barrister. The case, too, provided him with his first 
cause celelre^ it is true that he took part only in a com 
paratively humble capacity, but it was nevertheless a prelude 
to that long line of famous cases in which he was the central 
forensic figure. Further it gave him the opportunity of 
working with one, and studying at close quarters the other, 
of the two leading advocates of the day j for the leading 



24 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

counsel for Sir George Chetwynd was Sir Henry James, 
afterwards equally famous as a law lord under the title of 
Lord James of Hereford, while Sir Charles Russell, fore 
most amongst his contemporaries as cross-examiner, and as 
orator second perhaps only to Sir Edward Clarke, led for 
Lord Durham. At the very time at which this case was 
going on, both James and Russell were adding to their 
already great reputations before the Parnell Commission, in 
which James appeared for the Times and Russell for Parnell. 
The case originated in a dispute in the racing world, for 
all was not well with the Turf in the late 'eighties. There 
were ugly rumours going around that money was being 
made by illegitimate practices, that horses were being 
" pulled " and jockeys " squared." Point was added to the 
rumours by the legal proceedings in which the famous 
Charles Wood, as a jockey second only to Fred Archer, had 
been involved. Disturbing revelations were made and, as 
usual, insinuation kept ahead of revelation.; the result was 
that those who were anxious to maintain the high repute of 
racing desired a clearing up of the whole situation. It was 
in this atmosphere and prompted by this feeling that Lord 
Durham, a Steward of the Jockey Club and member of a 
family famous in administration as on the Turf, made his 
speech at the Gimcrack Dinner at York on December I3th, 
1887. In the course of it, he said: " No owner of horses 
ought to put up any jockey suspected of, or known to be 
guilty of, pulling horses. Unfortunately I know many very 
honest and straightforward owners of horses who employ 
the services of a notorious jockey because he rides well and 
because they adopt the selfish principle that it is better to 
have him on their side than against them. I go further than 
this. Some owners employ him because they think that he 
can " square " some other jockeys in the race and thus ensure 
the victory for his mount if he has backed it. I consider 
such policy on the part of owners to be a direct encourage 
ment to malpractice on the part of jockeys . . . There is a 
well-known and what the sporting press calls a fashionable 
and aristocratic racing stable that has been conspicuous 



APPRENTICESHIP AT THE BAR 25 

throughout the racing season for the constant and inexplic 
able in-and-out running of its horses . . . But the darkest 
part of the matter is this that the owners or nominal owners 
of the horses to which I am alluding win large stakes when 
their horses are successful, but do not lose much when they 
are beaten. If you wish to purify the Turf you must go 
to the fountain head." 

The speech created a great sensation in racing circles, and 
there was a stampede to identify the people referred to, and 
to pin down the allusions. This was no very great task, 
however, for opinion was general that the speech applied 
primarily to Sir George Chetwynd and that the stables 
referred to were Chetwynd House, where one Sherrard was 
trainer. Now Sir George Chetwynd was known as the 
ablest man on the Turf j though a young baronet of good 
family he was not possessed of large means and subsisted 
primarily on his winnings on the Turf. There is no reason 
why a clever man, well versed in the ways of the Turf, 
should not make a reasonable income out of racing by the 
employment only of the most scrupulous methods, though 
admittedly it is not an easy thing to do, but the fact that he 
was so dependent made the charge if indeed it was directed 
against him doubly serious, for it not only reflected on his 
honour but imperilled his means of livelihood as well. Any 
doubts as to whether it was Sir George who was aimed at 
were resolved by the action of Lord Durham himself, after 
Sir George had instituted legal proceedings, for, in order to 
facilitate their hearing, Lord Durham wrote to the Stewards 
of the Jockey Club, offering to give them a copy of his speech 
at York and promising to raise no other issue at the trial 
than that of the truth or falsehood of his statement 5 the 
letter ended; " I now state that the substance of my speech 
at the Gimcrack Dinner at York was to the effect that the 
horses in Sherrard's stables have shown constant and inex 
plicable changes of form, and that Wood, the jockey in that 
stable, has been in the habit of pulling them. I also accuse 
Sir George Chetwynd of having connived at serious mal 
practices which are contrary to the rules of racing." 



26 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

The issue was now joined. Chetwynd claimed 20,000 
damages, alleging that the speech was a libel on himself, 
and Durham, by this letter and in his pleadings, admitted 
speaking the words but said that they were true in substance 
and fact. The case aroused immense interest, both because 
of the personalities involved and the nature of the charges ; 
for racing in those days had an even greater grip on the 
popular imagination than it has to-day. Indeed it would 
not be too much to say that politics and racing were the chief 
preoccupation of every class of Englishman of the time, and 
the Chetwynd-Durham case strongly challenged the Parnell 
Commission itself in its claims on national attention. The 
importance to the parties concerned was fully equal to the 
measure of popular attention. The consequences to Sir 
George Chetwynd if he lost his case were apparent and 
disastrous j and Lord Durham, though to him the personal 
effect was not perhaps so immediate, would not improbably, 
if he failed to establish the truth of his charges, be held to 
have acted in a dangerously impetuous manner, while hold 
ing a responsible position, and thus calling unnecessarily in 
question another gentleman's honour. 

In this case, as in so many libel actions, the plaintiff was 
really on the defence 5 for, though if the verdict went against 
Lord Durham he would be mulcted in heavy damages, 
failure on the part of Sir George Chetwynd to establish his 
case meant the loss of something more important than 
money. He would be compelled to pay in a currency in 
which there is no liquidation. The charge which Lord 
Durham had made against Chetwynd, and for the disproving 
and punishing of which the action was brought, was really 
two-fold. The more serious one was that Chetwynd had 
employed Charles Wood to " pull " horses belonging to 
Sherrard's stables so as to obtain more favourable handicaps 
and longer odds in those races in which they were really 
being ridden to win. The other charge was that he was 
guilty of various malpractices contrary to the rules of racing; 
the principal allegation in this connection was that he helped 
Wood to evade the recent rule of the Jockey Club, by 



APPRENTICESHIP AT THE BAR 27 

which jockeys were not allowed to own race-horses, by being 
himself the nominal owner of Wood's horses. 

It was on the refutation of these charges that Rufus 
Isaacs spent many anxious hours of preparation before the 
case finally came into Court. It was not an ordinary High 
Court case, for, though the action would normally have been 
tried in the ^ Queen's Bench, it was referred instead, owing 
to the technical aspects of the case, to the arbitration of the 
Stewards of the Jockey Club, who were at that time, James 
Lowther^M.P., the Earl of March and Prince Soltykoff. 
The hearing was begun on June loth, 1888, in Court V of 
the Queen's Bench Division 5 this was during the Whitsun 
vacation, for both leading counsel were engaged in the 
Parnell case, which was still in progress. The case, however, 
extended into the new law term, for it lasted twelve days and 
the Court did not sit in Ascot week, which considering the 
tastes of the various protagonists is perhaps not surprising. 
Sir Charles Russell led Mr Charles Matthews, subsequently 
Public Prosecutor, and Mr Magniac for Lord Durham, 
while Sir Henry James had as his juniors Mr Pollard, Mr 
A. T. Lawrence and Rufus Isaacs. It is interesting to 
remember that Mr Lawrence, as Lord Trevethin, succeeded 
Lord Reading as Lord Chief Justice in 19215 it must be 
very rarely indeed that two future Lord Chief Justices 
are found together as juniors on the same side in one 
case. 

^ The first few days of the case were remarkable chiefly for 
Sir Charles Russell's strenuous cross-examination of Sir 
George Chetwynd and for the distinguished persons who 
successively occupied the witness box, some of whose names 
would^have seemed more in place in the pages of Froissart's 
Chronicles than in the list of witnesses for a court of law. 
Sir Henry James opened his case with an address to the 
jury, outlining the facts, and then put Sir George into the 
box, who maintained a stout front under Russell's expert 
handling of the cross-examination. Sherrard, the trainer, 
then gave evidence, and was followed by Wood, who had 
had previous experience of legal proceedings and proved 



28 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

rather taciturn under Russell's cross-examination, possibly 
on that account. 

Sir Charles Russell did not open the defence with a 
speech. Instead he put Lord Marcus Beresford, Lord 
Arthur Somerset, Major Egerton, the official handicapper, 
and the Hon. George Lambton into the box. Most of their 
evidence was not of great importance, but James secured 
corroboration of an important point in Chetwynd's evidence 
in his cross-examination of Egerton. This was in respect of 
the allegation of " pulling " horses in order to secure a more 
favourable handicap in subsequent races, which in the year 
1886 was concerned principally with the horse Fullerton. 
Major Egerton confirmed Chetwynd's statement that he had 
informed him, as official handicapper, that Fullerton was 
not fit at the time of these races, so that the horse's running 
could not be taken as an exact index of his proper form; 
this action Major Egerton described as a "very proper 
one." Lord Durham and the Duchess of Montrose also 
gave evidence and Lord Durham in his cross-examination 
by Sir Henry James had some of those sharp passages with 
counsel which are so frequent in courts of law when people 
accustomed to having their own way find themselves subject 
to the rules of evidence and confined to the pointy raised by 
clever and hostile counsel. But from the point of view of the 
plaintiff the most important evidence was that of Sydney 
Howard, the stable-lad and jockey who had had instructions 
from Wood and Sherrard not to exert himself ^ in certain 
races; for it became clear in his cross-examination by Sir 
Henry James that he had not had these instructions from 
Chetwynd, nor had he communicated them to him. The 
establishing of this fact went a long way to exonerating 
Chetwynd from the more serious charge of tampering with 
the form of his horses in order to secure an unfair advan 
tage in other races. 

At the conclusion of the evidence for the defence, Sir 
Charles Russell addressed the jury. He did not neglect 
the charges of " pulling," but his speech was more directed 
to establishing the second charge of " malpractices contrary 



APPRENTICESHIP AT THE BAR 29 

to the rules of racing." He urged, however, that in 1886 
Fullerton was not run to win, but to obtain good handicaps 
for 1887, and maintained that Sherrard must have been 
acting on the implied wish of Chetwynd when he instructed 
the lad Howard "not to exert himself" in certain races 5 
why otherwise, in the face of such suspicious circumstances, 
did Sir George make no inquiry? In respect of the second 
charge, Sir Charles pressed the point that Chetwynd's posi 
tion was very different from that of the other owners, whose 
horses were trained at Chetwynd House; he alone was the 
man who made racing pay, to the tune of 5,000 or 6,000 
a year in bets, and he too was so involved with Wood and 
Sherrard that^he could not disclaim their conduct. It was 
Wood, according to Russell, who was the real owner and 
occupier of Chetwynd House, Sherrard being really only 
his servant 5 and Chetwynd must have known, since Wood 
was a rich man and Sherrard a poor man, that Wood was the 
real owner of the horses belonging to Sherrard. Then, too, 
in support of this there was Chetwynd's letter to Wood, 
marked "Private," which said: "I am quite sensible of 
your wish that I should lose nothing if I take the horses. 
If they turn out badly we shall arrange between us and 
Sherrard in a friendly way what shall be done. Nothing 
of this need be known ..." This letter, said Russell, 
showed that Chetwynd was only lending his name to Wood's 
proprietorship of the horses 5 and his letter to the official 
handicapper in which he stated that he had bought the 
horses outright, was clearly an effort to conceal the true fact, 
which was that he was holding the horses for Wood. Russell 
finally summed up his viev of the situation in the words: 
" He (Sir George) had got into such complications with his 
trainer and his jockey that he was led into transactions from 
which in happier circumstances he would fairly have 
recoiled." 

Sir Charles had presented a fairly strong case, but it had 
one clear weakness j it depended too much on assertions that 
Chetwynd must have known certain things, because there 
were circumstances which might reasonably have led him to 



30 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

suspect them. This, however, is not the same thing as prov 
ing that he actually did know them, and it was on this 
element of weakness that Sir Henry James concentrated 
the main force of his criticism. Speaking at considerable 
length and with great force, Sir Henry conducted a difficult 
case with great skill and address j and Rufus Isaacs, sitting 
behind him, was fascinated to hear the expert handling, in 
a way in which only a master could, of the case which he 
had assisted so laboriously and so assiduously to prepare. 

On the first charge, Sir Henry relied principally on what 
he had elicited from Howard and Major Egerton in cross- 
examination y and in support of his contention that the 
stable's running of Fullerton had been impeccable, he 
showed that in 1887 Chetwynd had persistently backed him 
and had lost 1,077 ' m doing so, while Wood had also lost 
100 on him. As to the general question of his relations 
with Wood, many distinguished owners had also employed 
Wood 5 why had not Lord Durham said to them too: " you 
ought to have known about these things, because I knew " ? 
In point of fact Lord Durham had proceeded on suspicion j 
he knew very little when he made his speech at York. And 
in this connection, Sir Henry quoted very effectively Bacon's 
saying that there is nothing which makes a man suspect much 
more than knowing little. In the trial of Cox v. Wood, 
Wood had been acquitted of the charge of pulling 
"Success; " should Sir George have gone up to him after 
that verdict and said that he had lost confidence in him? 
Similarly at what precise moment ought he to have with 
drawn his horses from Sherrard's stables? He had done the 
chivalrous thing and stuck up for Wood, and it was because 
of this that Lord Durham had acted as he had. There was 
no evidence that Chetwynd had employed Wood because 
he could square other jockeys, and there was no trace of 
Wood having been the owner of the horses after the date 
of the transfer. As to the horses that were owned by 
Sherrard and Wood, Sir Charles RusselPs whole case was 
simply that he ought to have known the true state of 
affairs because Wood was rich and Sherrard was poor. But 



APPRENTICESHIP AT THE BAR 31 

this was at best a flimsy structure on which to base a con 
clusive argument j and further, if it was to apply to Chet- 
wynd, why should it not apply to all the other owners who 
had horses in the stables? The speech concluded with an 
eloquent appeal on the twelfth day of the case, for James 
had resumed in the morning after speaking for five hours 
on the previous day till near the point of exhaustion. 

The public, which had followed the case through its 
proceedings with a very lively interest, waited with growing 
excitement for the decision of the arbitrators. The decision 
was given on June 3Othj as the trial was conducted by arbi 
trators and was not an ordinary High Court case, there had 
been no summing up, and when the decision was given, it 
was delivered as a bare announcement, the reasons for it 
remaining locked in the breasts of Mr Lowther, Lord 
March and Prince Soltykoff. The decision was a draw, the 
arbitrators finding for Sir George Chetwynd on the more 
serious charge of " pulling " of horses, but finding the 
charge of lesser malpractices proved. But, though the 
decision was thus in a sense a draw, Sir George was really 
the loser, for he was awarded on the first charge a farthing 
damages, a contemptuous sum, which suggested that his 
reputation was not of a sort to entitle him to any more 
substantial compensation for an unfounded slight upon it. 
This, coupled with the fact that the other part of the decision, 
even though it was on a less serious point, had gone against 
him, was enough to finish his career on the Turf and to 
embarrass his position ; while Lord Durham, by proving 
half his case, had shown that at least he had had reason to 
be dissatisfied with the state of affairs and some justification 
for taking his strong line in calling attention to it. 

The case did something to clear the air in the world of 
racing, and to this extent it need not be regretted. But 
while the case itself might be welcomed, the circumstances 
that had given rise to it could not but be deprecated. They 
alone could justify a case which in its details, like the 
famous Tranby Croft baccarat case of two years later, could 
give satisfaction to none but the moralists, to whom it 



32 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

supplied a grateful illustration that pitch and defilement 
cannot be far separated. From the aspect of those interested 
in the law and drama of the Courts, however, the case 
has considerably more to commend it, and to Rufus Isaacs 
it had especial importance, because it was the first great 
case with which he had been personally concerned. It had 
given him, too, the chance of studying Sir Henry James' 
conduct of the case in Court from within. Edifying and 
instructing as it is to hear great counsel in Court, his per 
formance can only really be appreciated by one who knows 
the brief in advance and has an intimate knowledge of where 
lie the strength and weakness of the case. This was exactly 
Rufus Isaacs' position in this case, and from it he was able 
to learn much. And it inspired him, too, with the great 
possibilities of the Bar at a time when he could see about 
him only the lean harvest of the County Court. 



CHAPTER IV 

A GROWING PRACTICE: ALLEN v. FLOOD 

AIER the Chetwynd-Durham suit Sir Charles Russell 
and Sir Henry James returned to the intricate pro 
ceedings of the Parnell Commission, while Rufus 
Isaacs betook himself once again to the obscurer labours 
which are the lot of a young junior. The County Court 
still had its place in his activities, but he was rapidly quali 
fying for the proud, if rather intermediate, designation of a 
" rising junior." There was a period in those early years, 
when he nearly became disheartened 5 work did not come as 
rapidly as he had hoped, and he feared that perhaps after 
all he would not be able to outstrip those who had come to 
the Bar by more regular channels. It began to look as if 
perhaps it might once again be as it had been in the City 
failure after a fair start. But in spite of a momentary dis 
couragement he was not easily to be daunted or deflected ; 
he was now, too, a family man, for Gerald Isaacs, the present 
Lord Erleigh, had been born in 1889, and so to his own 
personal determination was added the tenacity of purpose 
of a husband and father. This time the determination 
brought its reward, and from the early 'nineties Rufus 
Isaacs' career at the Bar was one of vaulting and unbroken 
success. 

His practice, both in his earlier days and later when he 
appeared more frequently in the High Court, was princi 
pally in London. He had joined the Northern, Circuit but, 
although he fought two great cases in Liverpool in the hey 
day of his triumphs as King's Counsel, he rarely at any 
time practised in the provinces. It is true to say that from 
about five years after the date of his call to the Bar, Rufus 
Isaacs 5 practice lay almost exclusively in the High Court. 
The principal field of his activities lay in commercial cases, 

33 



34 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

and for one whose bent was in this direction, Isaacs was 
very fortunate in the period in which he was practising, for 
the later years of his career as a junior coincided with the 
successful establishment of the Commercial Court. 

In the early 'nineties the relations between the Courts of 
Law and the City were strained. The gravamen of the 
complaints of the business men was of a sort that has echoed 
through the history of the administration of justice. It 
was alleged that the judges were frequently ignorant of 
mercantile matters and had to be instructed in their business 
before the proceedings could start 5 litigation was said to be 
unnecessarily costly ; and the sterile interlocutory applica 
tions added to the protraction and complication of the pro 
ceedings, which were already long and costly enough. Such 
complaints against the law's delays are traditional 3 but in 
this instance there was sufficient substance in them to impress 
Mr Justice Mathew, who formerly as counsel had had a 
great and unrivalled practice in commercial cases and was 
later to become a Lord Justice of Appeal. He realised that 
the business community had reasonable grounds of com 
plaint, and that the difficulty must be met if the Courts of 
Law were to retain their jurisdiction over mercantile matters. 
The consequence was the creation of the Commercial Court 
to provide a better and speedier hearing for such cases. The 
effort was crowned with success, for it was not spoilt by 
ambitious rearrangement. No new rules were made, for it 
was intended that the Court should work within the existing 
rules, but in an original way and with a new spirit. Thus, 
for instance, procedure from first to last was controlled by 
the judge who tried the case out; a definite day was to be 
fixed for trial, with only a short interval between the issue 
of the writ and the trial 5 secondary evidence, too, was to be 
admissible when strict proof would involve exorbitant cost. 
These improvements implied a tightening-up of the system, 
which was evidence of a desire to get behind the techni 
calities and down to business which restored the confidence of 
the City and increased commercial business into the Courts. 

It was in this Court that a great deal of Rufus Isaacs' 



A GROWING PRACTICE 35 

practice, by now lucrative and extensive, lay from 1895. It 
was realised that here was a barrister whose profound know 
ledge of commercial matters was equal to his skill in the 
law, and whose conduct of a case in Court, with his grasp of 
the essentials of a situation, his destructive cross-examination 
and his subdued yet penetrative eloquence, was inferior to 
neither. They were interesting years, busy years, and suc 
cessful years; but the detailed narration of commercial cases, 
however absorbing to the few, could not be of general 
interest. We must be content, therefore, with a bird's-eye 
view of these years, and refrain from challenging Nemesis 
by following exactly in the footsteps of our subject. 

Not all his cases, however, were, of course, commercial 
actions, and there was one which was not which demands 
and deserves our closer attention. The case of Allen v. 
Flood is not a cause celebre in the sense that it was dramatic 
in its incident, or that it involved conspicuous personalities 
or great financial interests; but it is a leading case in that 
it fixes and establishes a great point of law, and is cited as a 
leading authority in our Courts. It belongs, in fact, to that 
select class of case, the name of which trips readily to the 
tongue of any lawyer, and the principle of which must be 
familiar to anyone desirous of possessing the most general 
knowledge of our law. Further it gave rise to a long and 
well-matched legal battle, and evoked some of the greatest 
judgments in the history of the Courts. It is also, from our 
more immediate standpoint, the greatest of the cases fought 
by the partnership, frequent and familiar in those years, of 
Lawson Walton as leader and Rufus Isaacs as junior. 

The case of Allen v. Flood went the whole distance of 
our civil procedure; that is to say, it was argued first before 
judge and jury in the Queen's Bench Division, then before 
the Court of Appeal, and finally before the House of Lords, 
which is, under Parliament, the supreme Court in the land. 
It might perhaps here be explained, as the matter will recur, 
that in civil cases, the party losing the action in the court of 
instance (that is to say, the court first hearing the case) may, 
if there are grounds of appeal, argue them before the Court 



36 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

of Appeal, which consists normally of three Lord Justices 
of Appeal, sitting without a jury; if still dissatisfied, a fur 
ther appeal lies to the House of Lords, which for judicial 
purposes consists of the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, com 
monly known as the Law Lords. In criminal cases, the 
position is rather different. At the period under discussion, 
there was, properly speaking, no appeal as of right from the 
Court of first instance at all ; the Judge could, if a difficult 
point of law arose, state a case for the consideration of the 
Court of Crown Cases Reserved, but there was no appeal 
from a decision on a question of fact. The position was 
amended in 1907 by an Act of Parliament creating the 
Court of Criminal Appeal; the existence of this Court 
clearly recognises the principle of appeal in criminal -cases, 
and the appeal on questions of law is absolute, though on 
questions of fact the certificate of the judge trying the case 
or of the Court of Criminal Appeal is necessary. The 
Court of Criminal Appeal generally consists of the Lord 
Chief Justice, supported by two High Court Judges, sitting 
of course without a jury; its decision is usually final, but not 
always, for if the Attorney-General certifies that the point 
raised is one of public importance, then the case may go a 
stage further to the Lords. This practice has obvious 
drawbacks, for in an important prosecution the Crown's 
case may well be conducted by the Attorney-General, who 
may thus be called upon to play a dual role/ of which the 
two elements might seem incompatible to some. In the 
Casement trial, Lord Birkenhead had to exercise this dual 
role, for he prosecuted Casement both before Lord Reading 
and in the Court of Criminal Appeal; and then in a judicial 
capacity he decided after consideration to refuse the appli 
cation for a hearing in the House of Lords. The case of 
Allen v. Flood was not, of course, a criminal trial, but it 
is convenient to make clear at once the position with regard 
to appeals, as the question will from time to time recur in 
the course of this book. 

[Those readers who, while interested in the drama of the Courts, find 
less appeal in strictly legal problems, are advised to omit pages 37 to 46: 
they can do so "without losing the continuity of the narrative.] 



A GROWING PRACTICE 37 

Allen v. Flood, although intricate in its argument and 
complicated in the extensive variety of cases cited, is in 
general principle not difficult to understand. It is con 
cerned with the important question of breach of contract. 
Now it had been laid down as far back as 1853 in the case 
of Lumley v. Gye, which concerned Miss Wagner, a well- 
known singer of the period, that it is a wrong actionable 
at Common Law knowingly to induce a person to commit a 
breach of contract. The point at issue in Allen v. Flood 
was really a refinement of this question. Put simply it was 
this: if a person induces a party, by means which are not 
unlawful, lawfully to terminate a contract with another, 
and is actuated by malice, does it give that other cause of 
action? The point is clearly of immense importance, m 
consideration of the frequency with which Trade Unions 
persuade their members to terminate their contracts or, in 
other words, call them out on strike. Allen v. Flood 
decided that in such a case no action will lie, for in Lord 
Watson's words, " the existence of a bad motive in the case 
of an act which is not in itself illegal will not convert that 
act into a civil wrong for which no reparation is due." This 
opinion he based on the theory, which he had already enunci 
ated in another very important case, the Mayor of Bradford 
v. Pickles, that " the law of England does not, according 
to my apprehension, take into account motive as constituting 
an element of civil wrong." This view ultimately 
carried the day and is now indisputably the law of England. 
But it became so only after a fierce struggle in three Courts, 
which evoked and exhausted the finesse in argument ot the 
leading counsel of the day, and against the opinion of the 
court of first instance, the Court of Appeal, and a minority 
of Law Lords in the supreme tribunal. 

The events leading up to the bringing of the action can 
scarcely be considered commensurate in importance with the 
points of law which it decided; indeed, as m the case oftte 
Great War, its origin lay in a local squabble, which might 
have passed off unnoticed, but in fact gave rise to a conflict 
whose vastness was ill-proportioned to its immediate cause. 



38 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

In April of 1894, the good ship Sam Wellerlzy in Regent's 
Dock undergoing repairs at the hands of the Glengall Iron 
Company. Among the men working on her were two ship 
wrights. Flood and Taylor j they were honest men and 
good craftsmen, whose thoughts while at work can be con 
jectured only. But whatever they were, it is certain that no 
flights of fantasy induced them to imagine that their names 
would be commemorated in a great civil law-suit. They 
had cause for uneasiness, however, if they let their minds 
dwell upon it, for, although they were employed only on 
the woodwork of the Sam Weller y they had come to their 
work straight from the yard of Messrs. Mills & Knight, 
where they had worked on the ironwork in addition ; and 
the ironworkers of the Boilermakers' Union, as good Trade 
Unionists, took fierce exception to the practice of shipwrights 
working on iron. The story of the iniquity of Flood and 
Taylor became known, and, while affecting to go uncon 
cernedly about their work, the two shipwrights could not 
but be uneasily aware of the black looks cast in their 
direction. Nor was Nemesis far behind them; for one of 
the boilermakers, by name Elliott, telephoned the awful 
news to Allen, who was the London delegate of the Boiler 
makers' Union. Allen went at once to Regent's Dock, 
unaware that he was about to make legal history, but with 
the agreeable consciousness of doing his duty. On arrival 
he behaved as an impeccable Trade Union leader should. 
He first told Elliott that the men must remain at work till 
the matter was settled, and warned him that if the men left 
work without the sanction of the Union, he would use his 
influence to have them deprived of their benefit. This done, 
he went to Mr Halkett, the managing director of the Glen- 
gall Iron Company, and told him that if Flood and Taylor 
continued at work, the ironworkers would " knock off." 
Faced with this possibility, Halkett discharged Flood and 
Taylor " for peace and quietness' sake," as he put it. 

If this was what he desired, Mr Halkett had hardly gone 
the right way to ensue it. However, it was impossible for 
the aggrieved shipwrights to bring an action against him, for 



A GROWING PRACTICE 39 

they had only been working on piece work, and were there 
fore liable to dismissal at the end of any day; normally, it 
is true, they might expect to retain their employment until 
the end of the job, but certainly no breach of contract had 
been committed by their dismissal. However, although no 
action would lie against Halkett, it appeared that an action 
would lie against Allen for the part which he had played. 
Accordingly an action for damages was brought against 
Allen, and Jackson, the chairman, and Knight, the secretary, 
were joined with him as co-defendants. In point of fact, 
there was little chance of pinning any of the responsibility 
for the transaction on to Jackson and Knight, who had not 
even heard of the transaction. The jury found that they 
had not authorised Allen in his action, which was one that 
lay within the scope of his authority. Lawson Walton and 
Rufus Isaacs argued that it was a case of co-agency, in which 
every member is responsible for the actions of every other ; 
but it was decided, both by Mr Justice Kennedy and the 
Master of the Rolls, Lord Esher, in the Court of Appeal, 
that neither the relationship of master and servant, nor that 
of principal and agent, existed between Allen and any 
member of the Union. The case against them was accord 
ingly dismissed. 

The main issue, that against Allen, was fought as a 
question of principle, for both sides had the financial support 
of their Unions. Consequently counsel were briefed who 
could do justice to the intricate legal argument involved, 
Lawson Walton, Q.C., and Rufus Isaacs appearing for the 
plaintiffs, Flood and Taylor, Mr Murphy, Q.C., and Mr 
Pike for Knight and Jackson, while Mr Robson, Q.C., who 
as Sir William Robson was successively Solicitor and 
Attorney-General in the Liberal Government of 1906 and 
then became a Law Lord, led Mr Morten for the defendant 
Allen. The plaintiffs' statement of claim contained refer 
ences to conspiracy amongst the defendants and to intimi 
dation and coercion j but these could not be sustained, for 
Mr Justice Kennedy said " there is no evidence here, of 
course, of anything amounting to intimidation or. coercion in 



40 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

any legal sense of the term." The struggle, therefore, con 
verged on the central issue: did Allen maliciously induce 
the Company to discharge the plaintiffs, and, if so, was he 
liable in law? 

The trial opened before Mr Justice Kennedy and a 
Common Jury. Flood and Taylor gave evidence of a non 
descript sort, and were followed by John Edmunds, foreman 
to the Glengall Company, who said that he had told Allen 
that his action was " very arbitrary." The phrase was clearly 
chosen with care by one who had a sense of the responsibility 
of his position as foreman, but the standard of repartee was 
somewhat lowered, if invigorated, by the evidence of 
Richard Moseley, master mariner, who, with the blunt 
enthusiasm of the sea, had told Allen that it would give him 
great pleasure to " chuck him into the dock." Allen, how 
ever, had escaped this fate, and appeared instead in the 
witness-box where he provoked great laughter by saying 
that " while he came down with the olive-branch in his 
mouth, Mr Edmunds not only kindled a fire but poured oil 
upon it." At the conclusion of the evidence Mr Justice 
Kennedy asked the jury whether Allen had maliciously 
induced the Company to discharge the plaintiffs. The jury 
found that he had, and that each plaintiff had thereby 
suffered damage to the extent of 20. The facts being thus 
decided upon, the case was reserved for argument and judg 
ment on the legal aspect* 

It might have been expected that where a leader of the 
eminence of Lawson Walton was engaged that he alone 
would argue the point of law in Court 5 but Lawson Walton 
knew his junior, and the experience of their association had 
given him great confidence in him. Consequently they 
shared the burden of the case in Court. Rufus Isaacs 
opened. He argued that there was no material difference 
between inducement to break a contract and inducement not 
to enter into a contract, and that where the inducer was 
actuated by malice he was liable. In support of this latter 
contention, he quoted the cases of Tarleton v. M c Gawley 
and Keeble v. Hickeringill where it is laid down that " he 



A GROWING PRACTICE 41 

that hinders another in his trade or livelihood is liable to an 
action for so hindering him." Similarly the plaintiffs had a 
lawful right to work on iron, and it was gross tyranny to 
prevent them from doing so. Lawson Walton followed on 
the same lines, claiming that there had been a wrongful 
interference with the plaintiffs' lawful rights and with their 
freedom of action j Baron Bramwell had laid down in the 
famous Trade Union case of Regina v. Druitt that, under 
the common law, liberty of thought and freedom of will 
were part of the inalienable liberty of the subject. 

On March 5th, 1895, Mr Justice Kennedy gave judg 
ment in favour of the plaintiffs with damages of 40. The 
size of the damages was, of course, virtually immaterial as 
both sides were contending for a principle, which would 
govern future relationships. Allen appealed against the 
decision, and applied for a new trial on the ground of mis 
direction of the jury. The appeal was heard on April 3rd 
before the Master of the Rolls, Lord Esher, and Lord 
Justices Lopes and Rigby. After hearing counsel for the 
appellant, Lawson Walton and Isaacs were only called upon 
to argue their own cross-appeal against the finding of the 
lower court in favour of Knight and Jackson. The Court 
unanimously found that the fact of Allen having acted 
" maliciously " gave a cause of action against him. It may 
be remarked, however, that Lord Justice Rigby hinted, in 
his judgment, that if the matter were res integra his decision 
might be for Allen 5 but he conceived that they were bound 
by precedent. 

With this shred of encouragement Allen took his appeal 
one step further, and the case went to the House of Lords. 
So, after eight years at the Bar, Rufus Isaacs enjoyed the 
rare honour of addressing the highest Court in the land. 
He was destined to appear in the Lords many times and it 
is a Court to which he always found his talents well suited 5 
indeed he was always extremely effective in any class of 
appeal case. In this he differed from a great many successful 
jury advocates, but this arose perhaps from a difference of 
method before the jury. The advocate, who sweeps the 



42 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

jury off their feet with his torrential eloquence, is rarely able 
to adapt his style to the colder and more judicial atmosphere 
of the Appeal Courts. But this was never Rufus Isaacs' 
way 5 he realised that the jury normally wants to be 
instructed rather than impressed, and so, instead of trying 
to sweep them off their feet for which indeed his style of 
speaking is unsuited he stretched out a guiding hand to 
lead them through the intricacies and difficulties of the case. 
This quieter method of exposition is considerably easier to 
adapt to arguments directed to the Bench alone, and Rufus 
Isaacs never had to employ the conscious rearrangement of 
style for appeal cases, which is necessitated in the case of 
some advocates. 

Allen v. Flood, having reached the last stage provided 
by civil procedure, dallied there considerably longer than is 
customary, for it was accorded the unusual honour of two 
hearings in the Lords. (It may be noticed that the case 
did not start as Allen v>. Flood. It started as Flood and 
Taylor v. Jackson, Knight and Allen } but in the Court of 
Appeal and the House of Lords, Allen was the appellant, 
and by the time the case reached the House of Lords, Jack 
son and Knight had dropped out. So the case became Allen 
v. Flood, and under that name it continues as one of our 
greatest leading cases). The case was first argued before the 
House of Lords in December, 1895, but it was then decided 
that there were certain preliminary questions to be disposed 
of before their Lordships could deliver judgment. Conse 
quently they took the unusual course of summoning eight 
High Court Judges to hear the arguments of counsel and 
decide the question whether, assuming the evidence given 
by the plaintiffs' witnesses to be correct, there was any 
evidence of a cause of action fit to be left to the jury. It 
was some time before so many judges could be spared from 
their ordinary routine simultaneously, and it was March 25, 
1897, fifteen months after the first hearing in the House 
of Lords, that the final round of this long and extraordinary 
contest began. 

It was, therefore, before a Court consisting of eight High 



A GROWING PRACTICE 43 

Court Judges and nine Law Lords, presided over by the 
Lord Chancellor, that Lawson Walton and Rufus Isaacs 
prepared to defend their victory in the two lower Courts. 
They based their case on two main arguments. In the 
first place, Allen had obstructed and interfered with the 
trade and means of livelihood of the plaintiff 85 this in itself 
was an unlawful act. Secondly, even if the act had been 
lawful, any desire on the part of Allen to punish the plain 
tiffs or any " malice " in his action would render it unlawful. 
There was a third argument, imported for the first time into 
the case by Rufus Isaacs in the first hearing before the Lords 
and adopted by Lawson Walton in the second, namely that 
Allen had been guilty of misrepresentation in securing the 
termination of the contract. But since this point was not in 
the statement of claim or pleadings, and had not been ad 
vanced in the lower Courts, it could not be admissible at 
this stage. The Lord Chancellor thought that it was; but 
the Court adopted the view of Lord Davey: " It is not the 
practice of your Lordships, where there has been a trial by 
jury, to allow a new issue or question to be raised at the 
Bar which might or ought to have been, but was not, sub 
mitted to the jury for their consideration on the evidence. 
To do so would be to usurp the functions of the jury." The 
new argument, therefore, was disallowed and the case rested 
on the two main contentions. 

The decision of the Judges, which was given after con 
sideration on June 3rd, marked yet another victory for 
Lawson Walton and Rufus Isaacs. For the Judges decided 
by a majority of six to two that there was evidence of a 
cause of action fit to be left to the jury. The words of Mr 
Justice Hawkins may be taken as summarising the view of 
the majority; " Being satisfied that that right of the plain 
tiffs is established by law, I think there is an abundance of 
evidence fit to be left to the jury that, without excuse or 
justification, and not in the exercise of any privilege or in 
defence of any right either of his own or the boilermakers, 
the defendant has wilfully, unlawfully, unjustly and 
tyranically invaded and violated the plaintiffs' right by in- 



44 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

timidating and coercing their employers to deprive them of 
their present and future employment to their injury j and 
the plaintiffs, therefore, are entitled to maintain their 
injury." 

Lawson Walton and Rufus Isaacs had reached the last 
stage of a long struggle, leading strongly, for they had 
won in every encounter. But their victories were to 
avail them nothing, for the Law Lords, representing the 
final Court of Appeal, found that no action would lie 
against Allen. The decision was not unanimous, and 
the view of Lawson Walton and Rufus Isaacs was 
endorsed by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Halsbury, in an 
extremely interesting and eloquent judgment. This judg 
ment and the monumental judgment of Lord Watson 
express the two divergent points of view. It is impossible 
to summarise them here, but anybody interested in the 
principles of law or in the brilliant reasoning of trained 
minds, should read them verbatim. 

It is possible, however, without going into the question 
of legal precedents, to see the two attitudes of mind reflected 
in the judgments. Lord Halsbury took his stand on the 
liberty of the subject to pursue his legitimate avocation un 
impeded. The point is put very well in Sir William Erie's 
Memorandum on Trade Unions in which he wrote: " Every 
person has a right under the law, as between himself and his 
fellow subjects, to full freedom in disposing of his own 
labour or his own capital according to his own will. It 
follows that every other person is subject to the correlative 
duty arising therefrom, and is prohibited from any obstruc 
tion to the fullest exercise of this right which can be made 
compatible with the exercise of similar rights by others." 
This right had been violated, and this duty neglected 5 there 
had been malice and there had been damage ; so Lord Hals- 
bury expressed his belief that " in denying these plaintiffs a 
remedy we are departing from the principles which have 
hitherto guided our Courts in the preservation of individual 
liberty to all." 

Lord Watson also took his stand on a fundamental right, 



A GROWING PRACTICE 45 

but it was a different aspect of the same liberty of action. 
" It is," he said, " in my opinion, the absolute right of every 
workman to exercise his own option with regard to the 
persons in whose society he will agree or continue to work." 
Allen's action had been no more than the delegated exer 
cise, so to speak, of this right on behalf of the boilermakers, 
and for this he could not be made liable. It was admitted 
that the person, actually committing the act of dismissal, 
was not liable, and consequently the person inducing the 
act could not be liable either, since motive is not taken into 
account as constituting an element in civil wrong. 

Lord Watson's view prevailed, and it is now undoubtedly 
the law that a bad motive does not create civil liability, where 
without it there is no cause of action, and that people in the 
position of Flood and Taylor have no legal remedy. Where 
two such Titans of the law as Lord Halsbury and Lord 
Watson were in disagreement, it would perhaps be imper 
tinent to venture an opinion. But apart from the legal 
aspect, the question has great sociological interest and im 
portance. And here perhaps the decision may fairly be 
regretted 5 for it must seem to the ordinary man or woman 
that the right of the individual to work unimpeded is a 
thing of greater ethical and social importance than the right 
of a worker to exercise an option as to whom he will work 
with. For in practice this latter right can only be exercised 
by strongly organised bodies of men, and it seems hardly 
in accordance with the English tradition of liberty and 
equality before the law that a man's employment should be 
at the mercy of the majority decision of a body, to which 
he may not belong and" at whose deliberations he will not 
be represented. Lord Herschell who gave judgment on the 
same side as Lord Watson evidently saw some of the diffi 
culty, and endeavoured to meet it. " I am not behind my 
noble and learned friend (Lord Halsbury)," he said, " in 
the desire to preserve individual liberty. But I think it is 
never in greater danger than when a tribunal is urged to 
restrict liberty of action because the manner in which it has 
been exercised in a particular instance may be distasteful." 



46 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

The argument is plausible 5 but in point of fact, what else is 
the repression by the Courts of crime than the restriction ^of 
liberty of action because in particular instances the exercise 
of it is distasteful? Liberty of action must, in the interests 
of the community, be restricted when that liberty of action 
infringes on the rights of others 5 and it seems to me that 
Allen v. Flood was just such a case and that, apart from 
the strictly legal issue, the decision may fairly be regretted, 
since it is desirable for courts and legislature alike to afford 
all possible legitimate protection to the individual whose 
liberty or livelihood is threatened by the arbitrary action of 
mass organisation. 

Though we may regret that their point of view in this 
long and technical struggle was not sustained at the end, 
no blame for the ultimate failure attached to Rufus Isaacs 
or his leader. For they had displayed considerable fertility 
of resource and subtlety of reasoning during the protracted 
proceedings ; and Rufus Isaacs could congratulate himself 
that at an early age he had been actively and prominently 
engaged in one of the longest and most hardly contested 
battles at the Bar, out of which there emerged a decision 
which is a leading authority on a most important principle 
of law. 



CHAPTER V 

K.C., AND AN INCURSUS INTO POLITICS 

IN 1898 Rufus Isaacs took silk; that is to say he made 
application to the Lord Chancellor, Lord Halsbury, who 
granted him permission to exchange his stuff gown for 
the silk one, which is the distinguishing sartorial feature of a 
King's Counsel. It is a step that is never taken without 
anxious consideration, and not seldom with considerable 
misgiving; for it involves participation in the narrower and 
more select competition of those who have already distin 
guished themselves in the pursuit of their profession, and 
it may not altogether inaptly be compared to the entry into 
the finals of those who have done well in the heats. The 
work of a King's Counsel (it was, of course, Queen's Coun 
sel when Rufus Isaacs took silk) is different from that of a 
junior and more restricted in scope; it is confined mainly 
to " leading " in considerable cases in the High Court, and 
therefore comparatively successful juniors, part of whose 
incomes depend on work in lower courts, hesitate before 
taking a step which will involve the sacrifice of an assured 
source of income. Neither are qualities, which make a 
successful junior, necessarily those which fit a man to be a 
good King's Counsel, for skill in the preparation of cases 
does ^not always go with the flair for the handling of the 
case in Court, which is indispensable in a leader. Conse 
quently many a good junior with a substantial income has 
suffered a severe reverse in his fortunes on taking silk, and 
even those who ultimately make a reputation as King's 
Counsel, often undergo a temporary eclipse. 

Rufus Isaacs was in a fortunate and special position. He 
was extremely successful as a junior, and had in addition the 
qualities that pointed to a potential success as a leader. By 
the time he took silk his practice had grown so extensive, 

47 



48 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

especially in the lucrative sphere of commercial cases, that 
he was earning an income of 7,000 a year, then as now a 
very considerable income indeed for a junior to make at the 
Bar. The size of his income would, on the " bird in hand " 
principle, have been a legitimate inducement to stay at the 
junior Bar, though he need have had no qualms as to his 
chances as a " leader." Nevertheless he had only been at 
the Bar just over ten years, and in normal circumstances 
might well have postponed taking silk for a few years. 
What finally decided him, however, was not so much the 
glamorous possibilities of a career as a leader as the great 
burden of work which his large practice at the junior Bar 
imposed upon him. He has always been an industrious 
man, and through the greater part of his legal career it was 
his practice to rise in the very early morning and to put in 
several hours' work on his briefs before the consultation 
with his clerk, which preceded a day's work in the Courts, 
often involving participation in two cases which were going 
on simultaneously. Such a life involved a considerable 
physical strain, and in time his Parliamentary duties levied 
an additional toll on his time and energies. 

It is a matter of mystification to some how it is possible 
to lead so crowded a life. One of the factors which helped 
Rufus Isaacs, as it has so many men of distinguished and 
varied achievement, is his capacity to do with little sleep, 
and to regulate his need for it according to the time which 
could be spared for it. This also spared him time for social 
life, of which he has always been fond. He has, however, 
always lived abstemiously and was at no time one of those 
whom the stimulus of heavy potations enabled to be as 
witty and entertaining in society in the evenings, as they 
have been brilliantly effective in affairs in the daytime. This 
Rabelaisian school of public men, of whom Charles James 
Fox is the most famous English example, is fascinating to 
observe in action j but even the strongest constitution must 
normally succumb to it before reaching old age. Lord 
Reading has not employed these adventitious aids either in 
business or in society j he has taken the quieter and wiser 



AN INCURSUS INTO POLITICS 49 

course of husbanding his resources with the result that in the 
seventies he retains his skill in the one, equally with his 
aptitude for the other. 

Another faculty of which he is possessed, and without 
which great achievement in a varied and extensive field 
is virtually impossible, is the ability to turn his attention 
completely to the matter in hand to the exclusion of other 
preoccupations, no matter how important they may be. It 
is this capacity of, so to speak, departmentalising the mind, 
which alone enables it to carry the weight of varied interests, 
and which alone allows of that terrific concentration, which 
must normally precede great achievement. It was this 
quality which enabled Napoleon to lie on the floor for hours 
on end, sticking pins into a map, and to beat Blucher as a 
result. It is a quality, too, possessed by a contemporary 
advocate and statesman of great distinction, who recently 
gave a young advocate his first lesson in the necessity of 
departmentalisation of the mind. The great man was leading 
the young barrister in an important case, and the young 
man, remembering no doubt all that he had been told about 
the invariable accessibility of leaders to be consulted on equal 
terms by their juniors, called on his leader to ask him to 
elucidate a knotty point in the brief. He was unlucky 
enough to find him engaged in his role of statesman, in 
preparing a speech on India, and the interview was short 
and one-sided. The great man merely raised his head 
slightly and said, " Are you aware that there are three 
hundred million people in India? " and, like jesting Pilate, 
on the occasion of another rhetorical question, stayed not for 
an answer. 

The combination of these qualities allowed Rufus Isaacs 
to get the maximum of result from the expenditure of his 
energies j but even with their assistance, he found that the 
work of his later period as a junior was imposing a strain 
upon him, which it would be unwise to continue indefinitely. 
It is true that his practice as a silk soon caught up and over 
took his previous practice, but the work of a leader is less 
exacting than that of a succesful junior ; for, though he has 



50 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

a great deal to do in Court and must always be keyed up 
to his best form when he appears there, he is nevertheless 
spared the drudgery of preparation which precedes the 
presentation of a case in Court. And so it was not only with 
high hopes but with a sense of the inevitability of his action 
that he made his application to Lord Halsbury; and in due 
course he went down to the House of Lords to receive his 
patent and went through the ancient ritual of being called 
"within the Bar," by the judges in their various Courts. 
Of the six other juniors who were called with him, the most 
interesting was Edward Marshall Hall, who was two years 
older than Rufus Isaacs and had been at the Bar a few 
years longer. Fate threw them occasionally, though not 
frequently, into opposition, and the Seddon trial many years 
later provided a splendid background for their very diver 
gent types of advocacy. 

Rufus Isaacs' first year or two as a silk were, not unnatur 
ally, not marked by the great cases with which in later day 43 
his name became almost automatically associated j but they 
were years of steady advance, in which he rapidly acquired 
a growing practice as a silk, consisting largely at first of 
commercial cases, in which his proficiency was already well 
proved. Among these were his appearance in the lengthy 
bankruptcy proceedings of Ernest Terence Hooley, the 
financier, and his defence of Beall, the ex-solicitor company 
promoter, on charges of making and publishing a false pros 
pectus and of obtaining money by false pretences. 

BealPs trial came on at the Old Bailey on October 3ist, 
1899, and lasted for fifteen days. Three other men Lam 
bert, Singleton and Wain were indicted with him on the 
same charges, which were concerned with the floating of the 
London and Scottish Banking and Discount Corporation. 
This company, which had been registered on August i8th, 
1892, went into liquidation in 1895 after having obtained 
30,000 in subscriptions from the public. It was, therefore, 
rather ancient history when it came before the Court, but the 
reason why no prosecution had been instigated before was 
that the Company had been registered in Scotland, to which 



AN INCURSUS INTO POLITICS 51 

the stringent provisions of the Act of 1890, requiring inves 
tigation after liquidation, did not apply. The company was 
formed as a discount bank, especially for small tradesmen, 
but very little by way of business was ever done. However, 
it was decided to increase the capital, which at the date of 
registering had been stated to be 102,000 to 1,000,000 and 
to this end, in March, 1893, it was resolved to issue 100,000 
ordinary shares of 10 each. With the aid of 124,000 
copies of the prospectus, which had been sent out, and a loyal 
and vigorous boosting in BealPs paper, the Financial Gazette, 
20,000 was subscribed by the public. A new prospectus 
was then issued, of which 50,000 copies were sent out, in 
viting subscriptions for 50,000 4^ per cent. Debenture 
Stock; but this time the public made a less flattering 
response, the sole tangible sign of approval coming from an 
invalid lady in Gloucestershire, who sent 189, 6s. 2d. for 
200 of Debenture Stock. On the strength of this, how 
ever, they declared an interim dividend of 7 per cent, for 
the half-year, ending September, 1893, and sent out a new 
prospectus with a letter stating that a 7 per cent, dividend 
had been declared and inviting subscriptions for ordinary 
shares at a io/- premium. When the order for winding 
up the company was made in Scotland in January, 1895, 
the total assets were found to be 336. 

Rufus Isaacs had the difficult task of defending Beall, 
who was, in the words of Mr Justice Channell, who tried the 
case, the " brains of the undertaking " and clearly a man of 
ability ; he was, however, in spite of the " dash " which he 
invariably cut in the City (something after the manner of 
Whittaker Wright) an undischarged bankrupt in 1892, just 
before the company was launched. The defence of Lambert 
was entrusted to Mr Marshall Hall, while the Solicitor- 
General, Sir Robert Finlay, led Mr Sutton, Mr Avory, now 
a famous High Court Judge, and Mr Archibald Bodkin, 
lately Public Prosecutor, for the Crown. The evidence for 
the prosecution occupied seven rather tedious days, and at 
the conclusion of it Rufus Isaacs at once put Beall into the 
box without addressing the jury. To-day this practice is 



52 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

not exceptional in criminal trials, but at the time of BealPs 
case the Criminal Evidence Act which first made it possible 
for prisoners to give evidence on their own behalf, was only 
a year old, and Rufus Isaacs' action made a considerable 
impression on the jury; it was at once a gesture of confidence 
and of defiance, which considerably enhanced the prospects 
of his client. These, however, were slender enough. Rufus 
Isaacs made a spirited effort in his behalf and in his address 
to the jury urged that the Company was bona fide and was a 
concern which might have had a considerable success if things 
had gone more smoothly 5 for there was a good opening in 
England, and more especially in Scotland, for a half-way 
house between the ordinary banking establishment and 
usurious concerns, which could give facilities to traders. The 
reason why Beall's company had been unable to meet this 
want was to be found in the hostility with which it had 
been treated by the old-established and conservative banks 
Rufus Isaacs' persuasiveness was, however, on this occasion 
of no avail, and Beall was found guilty and sentenced to 
four years 5 penal servitude. Singleton and Wain, who were 
also found guilty, were held to be less culpable and received 
respectively eighteen months and twelve months in the 
second division. Lambert alone, who had not been privy to, 
or even aware of, many of the Company's transactions, was 
found not guilty. It is interesting to observe that counsel 
for two of the other prisoners followed Rufus Isaacs' 
example and put their clients into the witness-box, only 
Singleton refraining from submitting himself to cross- 
examination. This shows how widespread the practice, 
authorised by the Act, instantly became, and for many years 
now it has been almost obligatory for counsel to put his 
client into the box; or at any rate it is a very grave responsi 
bility not to do so, for it is apt to be taken as a confession of 
guilt. This is clearly not what was intended by the Act, 
which was intended to confer a boon upon prisoners by 
removing a disability from them, of which their counsel had 
often eloquently, if perhaps a trifle insincerely, complained; 
and, in so far as a virtually compulsory element has been 



AN INCURSUS INTO POLITICS 53 

introduced, the Workings of the Act have to a certain extent 
justified the forebodings of its critics. Prominent among 
these was Lord Carson, who said in the House of Commons 
in the debate on the Bill: " We are putting an end to a great 
safeguard the citizens of this country have enjoyed for 
centuries, namely, that the Crown must prove its case." He 
also declared that in his experience he could recall no case 
of any suggested miscarriage of justice by reason of the 
inability of the prisoner to give evidence, and said " I think 
counsel will look upon such obligations as are thus thrown 
upon them with horror." That this latter prophecy was not 
unfounded can be seen from the fact that Mr Marjoribanks 
tells us that Sir Edward Marshall Hall would not accept the 
responsibility in capital cases, but gave the prisoner an 
alternative form to sign, the one reading " I intend to give 
evidence in this case," the other " I do not intend to give 
evidence in this case." But while admitting the strength of 
these arguments and the great authority of Lord Carson's, it 
must be remembered that an Act of Parliament, passed to 
remove a disability from a prisoner on trial, is only incident 
ally passed in the interests of the prisoner 5 it aims primarily 
at furthering and facilitating the course of justice. And this 
is just what the practice would appear to do, for justice can 
only be attained with certainty if the whole truth can be 
arrived at, and this is clearly more feasible if no avenues of 
approach are barred. If the prisoner is innocent he will 
almost certainly be the gainer by giving evidence, for even 
if he is flustered and gives contradictory evidence, his counsel 
can assist him to put it right in re-examination 5 while if he is 
guilty, then the interests of justice demand that his own 
words should not be excluded as a possible pathway to truth. 
Years later it fell to the lot of Rufus Isaacs to show, in one 
of the most famous murder trials of the century, that a clever 
man, who has covered up his tracks, may be exposed in cross- 
examination ; and it is possible that if it had done nothing 
else but indicate the interests of justice in that case, the Act 
would not have failed entirely of its higher purpose. 

The period of his early days as a " silk " marked, too, 



54 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

Rufus Isaacs' first incursus into politics. In politics he was 
a Liberal; this perhaps was natural, for Liberalism at that 
time was the normal political faith of his race and exercised 
a great attraction for young lawyers. It was then possible 
to be a radical without being a revolutionary, and a pro 
gressive without ceasing to be a patriot. And whatever may 
be said of the Liberal Party's philosophy in those days it 
could not be said to lack a policy ; and a party which included 
Asquith, Rosebery, Morley and Haldane could not be fairly 
accused of that narrowness of vision and interest which is 
sometimes associated with Liberalism. The Tory Party, 
too, presented fewer attractions to the young man of zeal 
and vision than it does to-day ; for although it had long 
been rescued by Disraeli from the reactionary class- 
consciousness which Croker had striven to elevate into a 
political philosophy, it was still undergoing, at the hands of 
Mr Chamberlain, its education in the reflection and repre 
sentation of democratic interests and aspirations. To the 
Liberal Party, Rufus Isaacs accordingly adhered 5 but, 
though he was a convinced Free Trader and social reformer, 
he was not a revolutionary nor a " Little Englander." 
Consequently his membership of the House of Lords and 
his tenure of the Viceroyalty have not been incongruous j 
we have been spared in his case the nauseating and pathetic 
spectacle presented by ex-revolutionaries who end up by 
sitting in a Chamber, which they have spent their political 
lives in abusing, or by holding a post in the administration 
of an Empire to which their only claim is an abundance of 
effort directed to its disintegration. It is a category in which 
it would be unfair to place Lord Reading; for though in the 
long Liberal campaign to limit the powers of the House of 
Lords, he stated that he would prefer an elective chamber, 
he was careful not to degenerate into the abuse which was all 
too prevalent at the time. And his first entry into politics 
as a Liberal Imperialist was not an unfitting prelude to the 
Viceroyalty. 

Nevertheless all could not be said to be well with the 
Liberal Party in the late 1 8 go's. The general election of 



AN INCURSUS INTO POLITICS 55 

1895 had brought a disaster which was aggravated by the 
disagreement, in the very course and conduct of the election, 
of some of the leaders of the party j in the new Parliament 
the ^ opposition numbered 259, of whom 82 were Irish 
Nationalists, while the Unionist had 411. But the position 
of the party was worse even than the figures indicated ; for 
it was becoming, in the words of Sir William Harcourt, " a 
party rent by sectional disputes and personal interests," and 
as such it was increasingly difficult to maintain it in a 
semblance of unity. Lord Rosebery for a time kept his 
uneasy crown^as leader of the party, but was in constant 
conflict with Sir William Harcourt; for in the case of these 
two there was added to the difference of principle between 
the ^ Liberal Imperialist and the "Little Englander " the 
strained relationship of two antagonistic personalities. It 
was not a position which he relished or desired to keep for 
long, and he took the first opportunity of relinquishing it 5 
this ^ occurred as a result of Mr Gladstone's final public 
oration, in which he made his famous appeal for British 
intervention in the matter of the Armenian massacres. A 
large section of the party responded to his call, but neither 
Rosebery nor Harcourt favoured intervention in the manner 
suggested. That there might be a certain amount of dis 
sension on the question was clear, but nobody expected 
extreme measures. It was, therefore, a matter of consider 
able astonishment to his followers when on October 8th, 
1896, Rosebery renounced his leadership of the party. 
According to Harcourt he " funked the future which he saw 
before him "; however this may be, his resignation certainly 
left Harcourt the most commanding personality in the 
Liberal Party. 

It might have been supposed that this retirement would 
at least have given internal tranquillity to the councils of the 
Liberal Party. In point of fact, however, it did not, for Sir 
William Harcourt took advantage of the Fashoda incident 
to resign his leadership of the party in the House of 
Commons in December 1898; and his action was endorsed 
and his retirement shared by Mr John Morley. The 



56 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

depleted ranks of the Liberal Party then elected Sir Henry 
Campbell-Bannerman, " a person of a pretty tolerant and 
easy-going disposition " the description is his own as 
leader of the Party. The choice was a 'good one, for 
Campbell-Bannerman, though a man of obvious limitations, 
served his Party loyally and well. But the impact of public 
events came to reinforce the personal elements of discord 
within the Party, for in 1899 war broke out in South Africa 
against the Boers. It is always difficult for a party in 
opposition to decide on its attitude at the advent of war; for 
it usually maintains that the war is the direct outcome of the 
policy of the Government, which it has been active in 
criticising, but at the same time, when the war has actually 
begun, a certain support is usually accorded to the Govern 
ment in its prosecution of it. The Liberal Party was caught 
in these difficulties to an unusual extent, and the Party was 
split again. They were united in their opposition to the 
attitude and tactics of Mr Chamberlain, but even this was 
really a retrospective point. On the question of the war 
itself Lord Rosebery and the Liberal Imperialists, supported 
by Mr Asquith and his group, were emphatic j it must be 
waged and it must be won. Campbell-Bannerman on the 
Other hand, although in his own words he was " anti-Joe 
but never pro-Kruger," laid so much more stress on his 
criticisms of the Government and the legitimate grievances 
of the Boers than on the necessity of winning the war, that 
his attitude was generally termed " pro-Boer." It was in 
these circumstances and in this condition that the Liberal 
Party were called upon to fight the General Election of 
1900. 

The Conservative Government decided to appeal to the 
country in the autumn of 1 900 in the belief that the war was 
over ; the belief turned out to be premature, but the election 
was held all the same. Thus it was through the rather 
unsatisfactory medium of a wartime election that Rufus 
Isaacs made his political debut, for he had been adopted as 
Liberal candidate for North Kensington. It was not a 
particularly good seat from a Liberal point of view, for, 



AN INCURSUS INTO POLITICS 57 

though it had been won in the election of 1892 by 210 votes, 
it had been solidly Unionist in the elections of 1885, 1886 
and 1895. In 1895 the Conservative majority had been 
916, which was considerable in the small electorates and 
narrow margins of those days; and, as his Conservative 
opponent, Mr Thompson Sharpe, though not a distinguished 
politician, was competent enough, his task would have been 
formidable at any time. But the circumstances of the war 
time election made it doubly difficult. For, although Rufus 
Isaacs was a Liberal Imperialist and shared Lord Rosebery's 
views as to the proper attitude of the Liberal Party to the 
war, the Conservative Party made no distinction between the 
different sorts of Liberalism in their electorial onslaughts 
the contemporary slogan " every vote given to the Liberals 
is a vote given to the Boers " made its appearance in North 
Kensington as elsewhere, and its effect was potent in a 
"khaki election." It was no doubt true, in view of his 
attitude, that to place Campbell-Bannerman in charge of the 
conduct of the war would have been a dangerous thing; and 
it was felt that the Liberal Imperialists merely served to 
complicate the issue. In point of fact, however, neither of 
the two first general elections of the twentieth century afford 
much subject for congratulation, for the Conservative slogan 
at this election was not greatly more reputable than the 
Liberal cry of " Chinese slavery" at the 1906 election a 
cry, it may be noted, never echoed by Rufus Isaacs in his 
campaign. 

In 1900, however, the tide, at anyrate in England, was 
set against the Liberals, and Rufus Isaacs went down with 
his party. He made great efforts, aided by a concourse of 
carriages on polling day larger than his Conservative 
opponent could muster, and a poster, headed by the Union 
Jack and Royal Standard with the letters V.R.I, underneath, 
which stood, rather unexpectedly, for " Vote for Rufus 
Isaacs." But Mr Chamberlain wrote a letter to the elector 
ate, exhorting them to vote for Thompson Sharpe; and Mr 
Chamberlain was all-powerful in those days. On October 
5th the result was announced: 



58 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

W. E. T. Sharpe (C) ... 3257 

Rufus Isaacs (L.) 2527 

Conservative Majority ... 730 



Rufus Isaacs, therefore, had succeeded in lowering the 
Conservative majority by 186, and that in a "khaki 
election " was no mean feat 5 and as it turned out, his chance 
of entering Parliament was not to be delayed till the next 
General Election. 



CHAPTER VI 



" 



A " POLITICAL " LIBEL ACTION AND A BOER WAR 
PROSECUTION 

KJFUS ISAACS' failure to get into Parliament in the 
1900 election was scarcely a matter for surprise $ nor, 
from a point of view of his private career, was it a 
matter for regret. For his practice as a silk was rapidly 
expanding, and he was about to enter into his great phase 
as an advocate; in the years 1900-1904 are to be found some 
of the most memorable cases with which his name is associ 
ated. An active attention to Parliamentary duties could not 
but have affected, even if only in a small degree, the 
enormous growth of his practice, for the people who talk 
glibly about ambitious lawyers going into politics for their 
own ends, tend to forget that they often do so at the cost 
of a decline in their legal practice. The Boer War, there 
fore, did not do him a complete disservice in keeping him 
out of Parliament, and it compensated him, too, for dashing 
his first political hopes by providing him indirectly with two 
or three great cases in the Courts. 

The first of these was the celebrated libel action of 
Chamberlain v. The Star, which arose out of certain articles 
in The Star, alleging the use of political pressure in the 
securing of Government contracts for cordite. Now at the 
time of the Boer War there were constant rumours of cor 
ruption and allegations of incompetence in the supply of the 
materials of warfare and perhaps it was no exception to 
the general run of wars in that respect especially in the 
matter of hay, out of which arose Colonel Morgan's action 
in which Rufus Isaacs appeared three years later, and of 
cordite. The rumours in respect of cordite were so emphatic 
and the dissatisfaction so widespread that a select committee 
of the House of Commons was appointed to investigate the 

59 



60 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

subject of the cordite contracts} this committee accepted the 
official view that it was necessary in the public interest to 
keep Kynoch's going as producers of cordite in order that the 
available supply might be readily increased in time of war. 
Kynoch's was a considerable Midland firm of cordite manu 
facturers, in which the Chamberlain family had an interest} 
and the Star y which of course was strongly opposed to Joseph 
Chamberlain's imperial policy, holding it to be the cause of 
the war, was not content with the findings of the select 
committee and proceeded, in articles appearing between 
August 2nd and October I2th, 1900, to attack a system 
which allowed contracts to be made at an apparently un 
economic figure. 

The facts were as follows. The firm of Kynoch's was 
turned into a company in 1884, and thereupon went through 
a bad financial period, showing a loss of 18,000 in 1887. 
Then Mr Arthur Chamberlain, " Joe's " brother, was made 
chairman, and an immediate change for the better took place, 
a dividend of 10% being paid in 1889. In 1894 the 
Government it was Lord Rosebery's decided that con 
tracts for cordite should be given to private firms, and 
accordingly in 1894, 1898 and 1900 tendefs were invited 
and orders placed. In 1894, Kynoch's secured half the 
contract, although they were not at the time properly 
equipped for the manufacture of cordite. In 1898, Kynoch's 
tendered at 2/4^-d, which was sixpence more than the tender 
of the National Explosives Company} Kynoch's, however, 
were given the opportunity of revising their tender so as to 
bring it into line with that of the National Explosives Com 
pany, and ultimately secured a contract for 380 tons. On 
the third occasion, in 1900, seven firms tendered, and 
Kynoch's tender at 2/6d was the highest. The Admiralty, 
however, proposed to allocate to them an order for 880,000 
Ibs. out of the whole, at the same time giving them an 
opportunity to revise their tender down to 2/3 d} eventually 
the allocation was done, this time not by the Admiralty, but 
by the War Office, which gave Kynoch's an order for 
330,000 Ibs. at their original tender. The official explana- 



A "POLITICAL" LIBEL ACTION 61 

tion of this preferential treatment, and that of the select 
committee, was, as we have seen, that it was justified, and 
necessary, in the public interest j to the Star, on the other 
hand, it appeared that, since Arthur Chamberlain was 
chairman of Kynoch's while "Joe" Chamberlain was 
Secretary of State for the Colonies and Austen Chamberlain 
Civil Lord of the Admiralty, political pressure had been 
brought to bear in the interests of Kynoch's. There, how 
ever, the matter might possibly have rested but for " Joe " 
Chamberlain's statement in answer to a question in the 
House of ^ Commons on August 8th, 1900: "I have no 
interest, direct or indirect, in Kynoch's or in any other firm 
manufacturing ammunition or war materials." The state 
ment was in the main accurate, and, as far as he was aware, 
of course, entirely true; but the Star discovered at Somerset 
House that the Birmingham Trust Company, in which he 
had shares, had invested ten per cent, of its capital in 
Kynoch's. Mr Joseph Chamberlain, therefore, had an 
interest in Kynoch's, even if only indirectly, and Kynoch's 
had undoubtedly received preferential treatment. The Star 
decided that such manifestations of a bad system must be 
attacked 5 the attack was duly launched in a series of articles, 
which gave strong vent to the Star's criticisms and lost 
nothing in vigour from the circumstance that the General 
Election made it a time of considerable political rancour. 

Mr Joseph Chamberlain himself contemplated bringing 
an action for libel, but was advised that it would not lie, 
and the Chamberlain of Chamberlain u The Star was his 
brother Arthur, chairman of Kynoch's. He maintained, as 
plaintiff, that the articles, alleging that he brought family 
influence to bear to obtain Government contracts for cordite 
on advantageous terms, were a libel upon himself. The 
Stai*s case was that, in so far as the remarks complained of 
were statements of fact, they were not def amatory j and in 
all other respects the articles were fair comment on matters 
of public interest. The case came on in the King's Bench 
Division before the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Alverstone, 
and a suecial iury, on March 2ist, 1901, and lasted for five 



62 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

days. Sir Edward Clarke, K.C., led Dr. Blake Odgers, 
K.C., and Mr Whitmore Richards for the plaintiff, while 
Rufus Isaacs led Mr Eldon Bankes, K.C., for the Star. 
Thus at the age of forty, Rufus Isaacs found himself 
matched with the acknowledged leader of the Bar, for as 
such Sir Edward Clarke, who had been Solicitor-General in 
the Salisbury administration of 1886-90 was generally 
regarded after the elevation to the Bench of Sir Charles 
Russell, with whom he had crossed swords in the famous 
Tranby Croft case. To be chosen by a leading London 
newspaper to carry their colours against such a champion in 
a case of great importance and public interest was a con 
siderable honour 5 the opposition, too, was all the stronger as ' 
Sir Edward had the assistance of the monumental legal 
learning of Dr. Blake Odgers, who was a distinguished 
ornament of what may be termed the academic side of the 
profession. Rufus Isaacs also had distinguished assistance, 
for Mr Eldon Bankes, who was descended from Lord 
Chancellor Eldon, was an extremely sound lawyer, although 
not a great orator. He subsequently became Lord Justice 
Bankes, and on the Bench he displayed, in addition to his 
great command of law, a charm of manner and a kindliness 
of disposition which impressed all who came into contact 
with him. In this case his position was peculiar, for when 
the case was entered he was a junior and as such prepared 
the defence; but by the time the case came into Court, 
however, he had taken silk thereby becoming one of the 
youngest of the K.C.s. The case of Chamberlain v. The 
Star, therefore, presented the unusual spectacle of two 
young K.C.s appearing for the defence without the assistance 
of any member of the junior Bar. 

The defence had a very difficult task, for they had to 
show, in order to establish the fairness of their comment, 
that Arthur Chamberlain had made an unfair use of his 
connections for the advantage of his private firm. In point 
of fact, the Star had really been concerned to attack the 
system, under which Government contracts were adminis 
tered, but by citing the Kynoch contracts as an example, 



A "POLITICAL" LIBEL ACTION 63 

they were inevitably attacking a private firm in addition 5 
and it is safe to say that, if newspapers extended the methods 
of criticism which they employ in respect of public men and 
public affairs, to commercial and private undertakings, they 
would very soon be involved in some very costly litigation. 
It would be judicious, therefore, to conduct the case with 
the soft pedal down. Nothing could be gained by aggressive 
ness, for the essential honesty of Mr Chamberlain was not 
in question; and, if the verdict was to be hostile, the damages 
would be greatly increased by any aggravation of the offence. 
This is a type of case and they are far from uncommon 
for which his command of himself, his restraint, and ^ his 
exact discrimination especially fitted Rufus Isaacs. It is a 
type of case, too, in which he always excelled 5 for, where 
a stormier advocate might well be carried away by his elo 
quence or the force of the case which he was presenting, 
Rufus Isaacs never for a moment lost sight of the main 
issue. And that is perhaps the most fundamental, as it 
is probably the least showy, of the qualities of a great 
advocate. 

It follows that the most interesting part of the case was 
Rufus Isaacs' address to the jury. But before this he sub 
jected Arthur Chamberlain to a lengthy cross-examination. 
Mr Chamberlain said that in his opinion it would not be 
legitimate to use political influence to get ^ contracts for 
Kynoch's, but admitted that one of his subordinates, Cullen, 
had written to the Agent-General to the Australian colonies 
to inform them that the secretary of Kynoch's was going 
to visit Australia, and that the chairman of the company 
was the brother of the Secretary of State for the Colonies; 
this, however, had been without his knowledge. In truth 
there was little headway to be made against Mr Arthur 
Chamberlain. For he was the very type and symbol of the 
Victorian successful man of business, with all the virtues and 
all the limitations of his class; and as such he impressed the 
jury very favourably. His attitude is well exemplified by 
a passage in his cross-examination. He had been asked by 
Rufus Isaacs whether Kynoch's had made any arrangements 



64 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

to " maintain prices " with other firms. On his replying in 
the negative, Rufus Isaacs asked: 

" Do you say you would be acting properly if you made 
such an arrangement? " 

" That kind of thing/' came the reply, " does not have 
my approval. I do not think it pays." 

Later on in his cross-examination, when questioned as to 
political pressure, he said that he had written to the manager 
of the works at Arklow, telling him to show Mr Field, M.P. 
over the works and had instructed him: " Don't say any 
thing which is not true, but what you say must be illus 
trative of the advantages we have brought to Ireland." 
Such remarks might have been invaluable to Mr Lytton 
Strachey for a portrait in miniature, but they did no harm 
to the plaintiff's case. For what is material for the satirist 
is not always material for counsel, and certain limitations 
have always been considered conducive to good business. 

Rufus Isaacs, therefore, opened his address to the jury 
by saying that he accepted Mr Arthur Chamberlain's evi 
dence, and it was on the strength of that evidence that he 
would ask the jury to say that the articles were justified. 
No action was necessary to vindicate Mr Arthur Chamber 
lain's character because no imputation had been made on 
his private character, the articles having their inception in 
Joseph Chamberlain's statement in the House of Commons 
on August 8th, which had turned out to be incorrect. Nor 
was it, Isaacs insisted, Arthur Chamberlain who was really 
concerned with the case, for the Star had not imputed COI H 
ruption but had attacked the system as wrong 5 and the 
question in respect of that was not whether their views were 
right, but whether they were entitled to put them forward. 
The whole of the Starts campaign had been directed against 
Mr Joseph Chamberlain and Mr Austen Chamberlain, who 
were ministers of the Crown. But they had been advised 
that there were no statements on which they could found 
an action for libel and " therefore it is," said Rufus Isaacs, 
" that Mr Arthur Chamberlain, who is quite a minor person 
in these matters, comes forward and brings an action for 



A "POLITICAL" LIBEL ACTION 65 

libel with two little pegs to hang his case on Tubes and 
Kynoch s and alleging that he is charged in these articles 
with corruption." He then outlined the history of the 
^location of the contracts, showing how on each occasion 
Kynoch's had received preferential treatment. The plain- 
titt had said in cross-examination that it was the allegations 
of " Government favouritism " to which he took exception; 
but surely this continued preferential treatment was proof 
of Government favouritism. The matter was one of great 
public importance and the Star, which did not for a moment 
impute corruption, but felt the finding of the Select Com 
mittee to be " kind/' was doing its duty in drawing attention 
to the facts. The kernel of the matter was Mr Joseph 
Chamberlain's statement in the House of Commons, for it 
was a public statement, inviting contradiction or refutation j 
and " it ^is a thousand times to be regretted," said Rufus 
Isaacs, his voice taking on an added note of sternness, " for 
the sake of the purity and honour of our national life that 
the statement which was made on August 8th was never 
contradicted." He then concluded, not with an appeal, but 
with a challenge, almost a command: " You must deal with 
the whole question broadly and in a public spirit, and I look 
to you to vindicate the position the defendants have taken 
up in fearlessly commenting on matters of great public 
importance." 

Rufus Isaacs had handled a difficult case with considerable 
tact, for he had maintained it firmly, but never aggressively; 
and he had lost no chance of insisting that there was an 
unreality in the whole proceedings, since the criticism was 
directed ^at Mr Joseph Chamberlain and public administra 
tion, while the action was brought by Mr Arthur Chamber 
lain, chairman of a private company. But Sir Edward 
Clarke was too wary and tried an advocate not to see where 
the danger lay, and he insisted from the beginning of his 
speech that they were concerned with the reputation of a 
private individual and not with questions of public policy. 
" The suggestion is," he said, " that the assault was intended 
to be directed against Mr Joseph Chamberlain and Mr 



66 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

Austen Chamberlain, and that if Mr Arthur Chamberlain 
was hit in the attack that was because he enjoys the privilege 
of being Mr Joseph Chamberlain's brother, and he must 
always remember as a consolation that his brother is in the 
Cabinet." Equally striking and effective was his method of 
dealing with another of Rufus Isaacs 7 contentions, namely 
that the attack had done Arthur Chamberlain no harm, as 
his commercial reputation was so firmly established; in 
reference to this Sir Edward said: "According to the 
defendants' theory the only people who could ever get 
damages for libel are shady financiers and ladies with a past, 
and they are entitled to recover damages in order to set up 
a somewhat damaged reputation." 

Lord Alverstone then proceeded to a careful and fair 
summing up 5 it left, however, little doubt as to what the 
verdict would be, and after forty-five minutes' retirement 
the jury duly found for the plaintiff. The verdict, how 
ever, which was on the whole to be expected was hardly as 
important a consideration as the damages, which were 
assessed at only 200. To keep the damages, awarded 
against a great newspaper in a case of such importance, down 
to the trifling sum of 200, may not unfairly be considered 
a triumph on the part of Rufus Isaacs. This view, at any 
rate, was taken by the Star, which was far from dissatisfied 
with the verdict. In the course of a leading article on the 
subject, it was stated that "no charge . reflecting upon the 
personal integrity of any member of his family was at any 
time contemplated. If he (Arthur Chamberlain) is now 
willing to take the view of our criticisms which we intended 
them to present, he will be able to regard the verdict of the 
jury with satisfaction equal to ours. Their verdict," the 
article continued, " was given after a prolonged and arduous 
intellectual battle between eminent counsel in which the 
consummate ability of Mr Rufus Isaacs was pitted against 
the eloquence of the greatest advocate now living." Else 
where in the paper further complimentary reference was 
made : cc We more than anyone have reason to appreciate 
the vast skill and the perfect discretion with which the 



A "POLITICAL" LIBEL ACTION 67 

defence in the Chamberlain case was conducted by the 
counsel to whom it was confided. The youthfulness of 
both Mr Rufus Isaacs, K.C., and Mr Eldon Bankes, K.C, 
and the fact that in the face of even adverse circumstance 
and against such redoubtable opponents as Sir Edward 
Clarke the unquestioned head of his profession and Dr 
Blake Odgers, K.C., they kept the verdict down to the 
inconsiderable sum of 200 is the greatest feat of advocacy 
since Mr C. F. Gill, as an almost unknown junior, beat Sir 
Charles Russell in their forensic duel in the Marks and 
Butterfield case." In this sweeping assertion the Star was 
perhaps carried away by the enthusiasm of the moment 5 but 
it is pleasant to have so grateful a client. 

Immediately on the conclusion of the case of Chamberlain 
v. The Star, a second came on for hearing, namely, Neville 
Chamberlain v. The Star. The facts of this case had no 
connection with the former case, for The Star had here 
drawn information from another paper, which they had 
believed to be true and which had turned out to be false. 
The Star > therefore, expressed in Court their desire to make 
full apology and withdrawal 5 they also paid 1500 to the 
plaintiff as full indemnity in respect of his claim. So ended 
the Chamberlain litigation against The Star. It is a curious 
incidental fact that Sir Edward Clarke, who was leading 
counsel for the Chamberlains, found himself forced to with 
draw from active Conservative politics because of his dis 
agreement with Mr Joseph Chamberlain's policy of Protec 
tion, while thirty years later Rufus Isaacs, who was counsel 
on the opposite side, was a fellow member with Mr Neville 
Chamberlain of the first National Government. 

The other case in which Rufus Isaacs appeared, arose 
more directly out of the Boer War ; for, whereas Chamber 
lain v. The Star had been concerned with what is sometimes 
called though exclusively by non-combatants the Home 
Front, Dr Krause had taken an active and leading part in 
South Africa. It was some months after the Chamberlain 
case, in January of 1902, that Rufus Isaacs appeared at the 
Old Bailey for the defence of the strange and talented Dr 



.68 ^ORD READING AND HIS CASES 

Krause. This case, which excited great interest at the time 
on account of its connection with the Boer War, is chiefly 
remarkable as an illustration of how much an able and 
resourceful advocate can do, when the facts are for the most 
part not in dispute and are hostile to his client. 

The case was in many ways very unusual, on account both 
of the personalities involved and of the circumstances 
attending it. Dr Krause was a young South African of 
Dutch extraction, who showed such marked abilities from 
the first, that after his schooling in South Africa was com 
pleted, he was sent over to study law at the University of 
Amsterdam. From there he came to England, and in 1893 
joined the .Middle Temple, from which he was called to the 
Bar. He then returned to South Africa to practise and so 
rapid was his rise that a few years found him risen to be 
State Prosecutor and acting Attorney-General for Witwaters- 
rand under the Republican Government. 

Like most young lawyers he was actively interested in 
politics, in which he was a determined anti-Uitlander, and 
it was his political views which brought him into conflict 
with another young lawyer called Forster, who was an 
extremely zealous Unionist. Forster was not so high in his 
profession as Krause, nor was he quite the " model " young 
man that the earnest, industrious young Attorney was; but 
he had founded a league for the defence of the Union and, 
as politics assumed an ever-growing significance in South 
Africa, so did Forster's importance at any rate in the eyes 
of Krause grow larger. And Krause felt against Forster 
the bitter animosity which at times of intense political and 
national feeling men entertain for their opponents. 

All continued, however, to go well with Krause for a 
time. The outbreak of the Boer War, which he personally 
deplored, brought him into greater prominence as Special 
Commandant and Military Governor of Johannesburg. This 
position he continued to hold until May, 1900, when on 
the approach of Lord Roberts he surrendered the town 
without a struggle; in consideration of this, Lord Roberts 
sent him a letter, which was afterwards read by Rufus Isaacs 



A "POLITICAL" LIBEL ACTION 69 

in the trial. It ran: " I desire to express to you how fully 
I appreciate the valuable assistance you have afforded me in 
connection with the entry into this town of the force under 
my command . . . Thanks to your "energy and vigilance, 
order and tranquillity have been preserved, and I congratu 
late you heartily on the result of your labours. Permit me 
also to tender to you my personal thanks for the great 
courtesy you have shown me since I first had the pleasure 
of meeting you." No doubt the easy surrender of Johannes 
burg was mainly due to the plan of 'the Boers to keep their 
capital safe from the damage necessarily attendant on a siege. 
But nevertheless Krause was undoubtedly anxious to reduce 
to a minimum the bloodshed and suffering consequent on a 
war, the very existence of which he regretted. 

Krause had given his parole to the British that* he would 
not leave Johannesburg without leave. Accordingly he 
applied for permission, which was granted, and he came to 
London by way of Paris. In London he resumed his legal 
practice, apparently without difficulty or comment ; which in 
one who had taken a leading part on the side of the enemy 
in a war still raging, seems surprising enough, and affords 
proof, incidentally, that British anti-Boer feeling was not as 
ferocious as it is sometimes portrayed. He appeared in one 
case for Mr Markham, M.P., in the action brought against 
him by Krause's old enemy, Forster. And indeed his mind 
was becoming more and more preoccupied with thoughts of 
Forster j far away now himself from the scene of action, 
and impatient perhaps at his enforced inactivity in the 
struggle, Krause began to brood over the affairs of his 
country, and became convinced that Forster was his country's 
arch-enemy, and that it was his duty to draw the attention 
of his countrymen on the spot to the menace in their midst. 
Consequently he wrote letters to a friend, Broeksma, in the 
summer of 1901, asking for information against Forster of 
a derogatory nature which would, discredit him, or suggest 
ing, as an alternative, more drastic measures for his removal. 
These 'letters never reached Broeksma, who was court- 
martialled and shot on August 24th ; but their discovery 



70 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

led to the arrest of Krause on the charge of incitement to 
murder. 

The Boer War -was still in being for though the worst 
of the fighting was over, peace was not signed until nearly 
six months later when Krause came up for trial before the 
Lord Chief Justice in January, 1902. Public interest in the 
proceedings was, therefore, considerable, but it was to be a 
case more famous for refinement of argument employed by 
counsel than for the general circumstances surrounding it. 
Krause was charged on an indictment containing thirty 
counts, the gist of which was a charge of incitement to 
murder, under the Offences against the Persons Act of 1 86 1 ; 
Rufus Isaacs led for the defence, while Sir Edward Carson, 
the Solicitor-General, led for the prosecution. 

The task of the prosecution was comparatively simple. 
All that Carson had to do at least to start with was to 
outline the events, narrated above, and to read the letters, 
whose authorship was undisputed, and submit that the 
offence was made out. The letter of August 6th contained 

the most damning passage: " F is greatly the cause of 

this, and therefore I wrote to you the previous week that 
our people should be made aware of this, so that he can be 
shot dead in some lawful manner, or otherwise put out of 
the way." And in a letter of August 3<Dth he wrote: " Of 
course I only wish to know this (this refers to his request 
to Broeksma to find out information derogatory to Forster) 
if the other matters concerning Forster have not reached 
their consummation. I would, of course, prefer the latter." 
Evidence was given by Forster and Colonel Davies of the 
Intelligence Department, who said that, as far as he knew, 
Krause had never taken the oath of allegiance or of neutral 
ity. Forster, when cross-examined by Isaacs, was compelled 
to admit that a letter of his had appeared in the Pall Mall 
Gazette of June iyth, 1901, in which he had urged that all 
the enemy forces in the field should be treated not as bel 
ligerents, but as robbers and bandits meaning, as he now 
alleged, as British subjects in rebellion. 

Rufus Isaacs opened his case by reading the letter from 



A "POLITICAL" LIBEL ACTION 71 

Lord Roberts and a letter written by Krause to Broeksma 
from Holloway on September 6th (the admissibility of 
which was admitted after discussion) which expressed 
astonishment at the charge brought against him, and ended 
with the postcript, " I have never in my life done or asked 
anybody to do an illegal or wrong act." 

Isaacs then proceeded to his argument on the point of 
law. Briefly, his contention was that on a number of counts 
there was no evidence to support the charge. And as there 
was no evidence that Broeksma, who, it will be remembered, 
was executed on August 24th, had ever received the letters, 
there could not be a statutory offence under the Offences 
against the Persons Act. For the statute punished " solicit 
ing," " persuading," " endeavouring to persuade," and to 
constitute these offences it was necessary that the mind of the 
person solicited should be reached. Thus " solicit " im 
ported actual incitation, and " encourage " and " persuade " 
implied argument addressed to and reaching a mind; the 
only difficulty was with " endeavour to persuade " but even 
here the statute meant actual argument addressed to a per 
son. But in this case what mind had been reached and what 
person addressed? There was no evidence that Broeksma, 
who had been executed so soon after the writing of the 
letters, had ever received them; and there was no justifica 
tion in a criminal case for the presumption, of due delivery of 
a letter. 

To this ingenious and resourceful argument, Carson 
replied with a submission that solicitation imputed no such 
actual reaching of the mind. If Mr Isaacs' contention was 
correct, what would happen if a man received a letter and 
did not read it? Or if the letter were in a foreign language, 
which was incomprehensible to the addressee? Was there 
then no offence committed by the man who wrote the letter? 
But Rufus Isaacs answered these quandaries with the propo 
sition that mere intention was no offence under the statute, 
and that intention plus an act was not sufficient to convict, 
when the person to be affected was not reached. It is, of 
course, a principle of English criminal law that mere inten- 



72 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

tion of itself is not criminal; there must always be an overt 
act in addition to the mens rea, or criminal intention. An 
attempt to commit a crime demands overt acts just as much 
as the crime itself, since an attempt is an act, or series^of 
acts, which if not interrupted would lead to the committing 
of the full offence 5 but what may be an overt act for the 
purposes of an attempt may not constitute an overt act in 
the commission of the full offence. Thus in the ^Krau?e 
case the crime with which he was charged was incitement 
to commit murder 5 and the only overt act was the writing 
and posting of the letters. The gist of Isaacs' argument, 
therefore, was that the overt act was not sufficient to sup 
port the crime j there must be somebody incited, and in this 
case there was nobody, who had been in the least affected 
by the letters. At the most, therefore, the offence would be 
an attempt to incite. 

Isaacs' point of view prevailed with Lord Alverstone who, 
in giving judgment on the point, said: " In my opinion, the 
objection raised by Mr Isaacs with regards to the counts 
founded on the statute is an important objection and must 
prevail." The preliminary contest, therefore, had been won 
by Isaacs. And in truth it was the preliminary contest tfiat 
was of most importance j for instead of being tried on the 
grave charge of incitement to murder, under the statute, 
the prisoner was now only faced with the much less serious 
common law offence of attempting to incite, with its maxi 
mum punishment of two years. 

Isaacs made great play in opening his address to the jury 
he called no witnesses, and indeed there was nothing for 
witnesses to prove with the dwindling of the charges 
against his client. Originally, he had been arrested on a 
charge of high treason, the gravest charge known to the law; 
and that had been abandoned. Then there had been the 
statutory charge of incitement to murder ; now that was gone 
too. There remained only a shadow of the former charges} 
the charge of attempting to persuade. 

He urged Krause's high character and reputation, and 
pleaded for just treatment for an open and avowed enemy. 



A "POLITICAL" LIBEL ACTION 73 

" However greatly," he said, " you may dissent from Dr 
Krause's observations you must remember that he is entitled 
to justice, and is an avowed enemy who has resolutely 
refused to take the oath of allegiance or neutrality ... Dr 
Krause has given a parole, which he has not broken." His 
enmity with Forster was purely a political one, and the 
steps to be taken to get rid of him were of a political nature. 
And then Isaacs put forward the hypothesis on which the 
defence rested. Krause clearly regarded Forster as his 
country's arch-enemy, and for that reason he felt that the 
Boers should proceed against him 3 but he wanted them to 
proceed, in the words of the letter of August 6th, " in some 
lawful manner." These words were clearly incompatible 
with a desire to incite Broeksma to murder Forster 3 so far 
from that being his intention, Krause's aim was to get 
Broeksma, who was a lawyer, to bring Forster's case before 
the Boers and have him court-martialled. And that, in 
Krause's view, Forster had earned such treatment is clear; 
for he regarded Forster's suggestion that the Boers should 
be treated as robbers and bandits as tantamount to incitement 
to wholesale murder, while Forster had in addition made 
allegations against the Boers of vile cruelty, which had been 
contradicted by Lord Kitchener himself. 

After developing this argument, Isaacs put in a plea for 
his client. " He is an enemy an honourable enemy who 
has kept his engagements who held that his interests and 
those of this country were diametrically opposed to each 
other. Remember this man's past career, and Lord Roberts' 
emphatic testimony j and remember the extreme difficulty 
we all feel to rid ourselves of bias, and especially patriotic 
bias. . . . You will, I am convinced, rid your minds of all 
such prepossessions, and if there is the slightest doubt of the 
prisoner's guilt, he is entitled to acquittal." 

Rufus Isaacs had put up a strong case, and his interpreta 
tion of Krause's intentions was by no means improbable. But 
unfortunately there were circumstances which militated 
against the chance of the jury accepting it; and these circum 
stances were pointed by Carson in his reply, with an irony 



74 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

and restraint which made the presentment all the more 
effective. The violence of the views expressed in the Pall 
Mall Gazette could not justify the infliction of death on its 
contributors 5 and as for the contention that Krause intended 
Broeksma to proceed by court-martial, this would be difficult 
in view of the fact that Johannesburg was at the time under 
British jurisdiction. Carson was especially good in dealing 
with Isaacs' contention that the phrase " in some lawful 
manner " was incompatible with the idea of murder. " The 
word lawful is said to acquit. When a man writes to 
suggest a crime it is usually in veiled, or even ironical, 
language, as in the old story, c Don't nail his ears to the 
pump.' " 

Lord Alverstone's summing-up was hostile to Krause, 
and after only ten minutes the jury returned with a verdict 
of " Guilty." Unlike another and much more famous foe 
to this country, who during a future and greater war made a 
great speech to the Court after his conviction in a trial pre 
sided over by Rufus Isaacs, then Lord Reading, Doctor 
Krause attempted no flights of oratory when asked if he had 
anything to say. " I only desire, my Lord," he said in a 
firm and respectful tone, " to say that I deny that I ever 
attempted to incite anyone to murder, or that the thought 
of murder ever entered my mind. ... I have only to thank 
the Court for the fairness of my trial. I have scrupulously 
adhered to the terms of my parole. I consider Mr Forster 
is one of the persons whose conduct is in a great measure 
responsible for this deplorable war." 

The prisoner finished his brief statement in a firm voice, 
and the Lord Chief Justice proceeded to pass sentence. It 
was clear from the words of Lord Alverstone not ordinarily 
perhaps the most imaginative of judges that he realised 
how exceptional was the case. " This is to me," he said, " a 
most painful case, and no ordinary case. You are a barrister 
of the Middle Temple, a member of my own profession, 
and I doubt not a very able and energetic young man. You 
have been most ably defended. Nothing that could be said 
in your favour has been omitted. . . . The jury have found 



A " POLITICAL LIBEL ACTION 75 

you guilty, and in my opinion they could have found no 
other verdict. . . ." 

It is true that no other verdict could have been expected 
on the facts, for the consideration that Johannesburg was 
under British jurisdiction, and a court-martial by the Boers 
therefore impossible, was no doubt conclusive in deciding the 
jury against Isaacs' hypothesis. But is it so impossible that 
this was the real meaning of the prisoner? He had known 
Johannesburg at a time when such a court-martial would 
have been very far from impossible 3 and then, when he was 
far from the scene, preyed upon by his inactivity, obsessed 
by his hatred of Forster, not as a person but as the embodi 
ment of the spirit that caused " this deplorable war," is it 
not likely that he forgot the changed circumstances and felt 
that there must be some legal method of stopping the 
activities of such a man? At any rate it is gratifying to note 
that this early indiscretion did not ruin the career of this 
able and energetic young man, nor deprive South Africa of 
his services, for he was to live to rise high in the service of 
the Union of South Africa, a State as then unborn. 

But where we can agree with Lord Alverstone is in his 
reference to the defence, for Isaacs had fought a difficult 
case with unflagging resourcefulness. Despite the ingenuity 
of his final argument, the verdict had gone against him on 
the final count; but this was perhaps inevitable, and it is for 
the arguing of the point of law, where he was brilliantly 
successful, that the case will be best, and deservedly, 
remembered. 



CHAPTER VII 

ANNUS MIRABILISI THE LIVERPOOL BANK CASE 

^ I ^HE year 1902, so auspiciously inaugurated by the 
I resourceful advocacy of the Krause case, was to be an 
-* annus mirabilis for Rufus Isaacs. For this year set the 
stamp upon his success as a silk with a number of famous 
cases, the diverse variety of which was as great a tribute to 
his versatility as his handling of them was to his skill. It 
was cases like the Hartopp divorce case and the Taff Vale 
case, one of great popular interest and the other of supreme 
social importance, which gave him a fame among the general 
public equal to that which he already enjoyed in the pro 
fession. He had for a considerable time been an established 
financial success in his profession, and the career which had 
begun, bravely and obscurely, in the small house off the 
Finchley Road was now conducted from the splendour of a 
Georgian mansion in Park Lane; for he had for some time 
been established in 32 Park Lane. Nevertheless he still had 
to continue his habits of early rising and tremendous 
assiduity in the preparation of his work; but this caused 
little difficulty to one whose complete self-discipline has 
been a great factor in success. Neither now nor at any time, 
however, did he cut himself off from society or other 
interests 5 for like all great workers, he never found it 
necessary or desirable to deny himself leisure. In the long 
summer vacation, he was able to get away with his family to 
the sea or the country, and here riding, tennis and golf at 
the last of these he is said to have been a cheerful but 
incompetent performer had recuperative qualities which 
helped him to face the rigours of a long and arduous session. 
In London he found time for intellectual relaxation j unlike 
Asquith and Haldane he was not a great reader, for his mind 
has always been of a practical, rather than a philosophic or 



THE LIVERPOOL BANK CASE 77 

reflective, bent. Music and the drama, however, have 
always attracted him a love of music again is a racial trait ; 
and he was, too, a family man and a sociable man. Like 
most of the greatest members of the Bar, whose names have 
become public property, he has avoided the entire absorption 
in his profession which is often believed to be essential to 
success in it. 

A few weeks after the Krause case Rufus Isaacs again 
appeared at the Old Bailey in a case, which was the culmina 
tion of one of the strangest tales of successful roguery and 
inexhaustible credulity that the annals even of that Court 
can furnish. The case was that of Rex u Goudie and 
Others, popularly known as the Liverpool Bank Case. 
Goudie was a young Scot, who had come from the Shetlands 
to Liverpool, where he was employed as a clerk in the Bank. 
Unfortunately he had none of the hard-headed shrewdness 
of his countrymen 5 indeed, although he was an industrious 
and capable young man, his distinguishing characteristics 
were a child-like readiness to believe all that he was told 
and a capacity for making the most undesirable friends. 
These qualities, united to a taste for betting, were fairly 
certain to get him into trouble. The trouble duly came, but 
it was on a scale that nobody could have anticipated. 

The first harbingers of trouble were a disreputable pair 
of Turf hangers-on, called Kelly and Stiles, who were men 
of no occupation and little means. Goudie met them in 
a train going from Newmarket to London on October 26th, 
1900, and their practised eye told them that here was an 
acquaintanceship to be followed up. Consequently it was 
arranged that all three should meet at Hurst Park on the 
following day, where Stiles was introduced as a man of 
great wealth, who often had 5,000 or 10,000 on a race, 
and Kelly as his commission-agent, who betted for him and 
had a most important clientele. Goudie was naturally 
delighted at the turn of events, and the keen edge of his 
pleasure was not at all blunted when he was informed at 
the end of the day that Kelly had been betting for Stiles and 
for him, with the result that Stiles had lost a great deal of 



78 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

money, while he, although winning on the first race, had 
lost 230 in all 5 Goudie cheerfully paid up the 230 and 
sent a further 1000 for " investment." So the game con 
tinued, Kelly "making bets" for Goudie, and Goudie 
always losing 5 but Goudie although he never had the grati 
fication of winning money had the consolation of knowing 
that his friend Stiles was losing twice as much as he did, 
because whenever Goudie lost 5,000 Stiles was said to have 
lost 10,000. The system continued for a year, with the 
result, to cut a long story short, that Kelly got 29,615 
and Stiles 35,332 from the credulous Goudie. 

After about a year of this, however, new and larger vul 
tures appeared, attracted by this unusually profitable prey, 
and Kelly and Stiles were driven off. The newcomers were 
three in number, Burge a former light-weight boxer*, 
Marks, a Starting-Price bookmaker doing a small business in 
Adelphi Terrace, and Mances, a card-sharper. Burge had 
formerly been a successful pugilist, and ten years earlier had 
been described by the Sportsman as a " bright, modest^ well- 
spoken young fellow, fit to battle for his life . . . with an 
appetite quite unbeatable." The years, however, had 
coarsened the " modest young fellow," and the appetite had 
increased for other things than food 5 by 1900 he was at the 
end of his financial resources and in bad company. In 
October, 1901, he heard of Goudie, and without loss of 
time he and Mances travelled up to Liverpool, where they 
came upon Goudie in the bureau waiting for letters 
addressed to Scott the name which he had assumed for 
racing purposes. Mances at once went up to Goudie and 
told him that he knew that he had been betting and losing 5 
" You are a clerk in the Bank of Liverpool, in a position 
where you can command money," he said, and the manner 
was so threatening that Goudie was afraid and started to 
make feeble denials. But Mances reassured him and said 
that he could introduce him to a bookmaker who was so 
good that he would let him have 5,000 on a horse up to 

*I notice that Lord Birkenhead refers to him as " the big boxer"; he 
was in point of fact, of course, quite a small man. 



THE LIVERPOOL BANK CASE 79 

one hour of the start of the race, and also to a jockey called 
Ballard, who would give him good information. That 
Goudie believed this supplies almost unbelievable evidence 
of the^ extent of his credulity, for one would have supposed 
that his great interest in racing would at anyrate have made 
him realise that in the smaller races such a bet made at such 
a time would revolutionise the odds. But Goudie had an 
invincible capacity for belief, and he believed Mances, just 
as he had believed Kelly and Stiles. The bookmaker, of 
course, was Marks, and with him from this time on Goudie 
did his betting ; Kelly and Stiles were dropped, for Goudie 
was afraid that, if he did not bet with Marks, Mances would 
give him away to the Bank authorities. The same procedure, 
however, was adopted 5 Goudie sent vast sums for " invest 
ment," which were pocketed by the trio, and Goudie was 
informed that they had been lost in betting. One winner 
he did back with Marks, Sansome, on November nth, at 
5-2, and as he had " invested " 10,000, he should have 
won 25,0005 Marks, however, wired back to say that he 
was ill, and had been unable to get the money on, and that 
in consequence Goudie had not won his 25,000. One 
notable difference there was, however, between the method 
of Kelly and Stiles and that of their succesors. Kelly and 
Stiles had made their 60,000 odd out of Goudie in twelve 
months; the new trio played their fish so hard that as a 
result of three days' racing Goudie lost 25,000, and within 
three weeks they had made 91,000 out of him. Burge 
got 38,500 and opened an account with the Credit 
Lyonnais besides loading Mrs Burge with jewellery; Marks 
made 15,000; and Mances, who made 36,750, with com 
mendable prudence invested 33,000 of it in Consols. 

The question will naturally be asked: how was it possible 
to make such vast sums out of Goudie, who after all was 
only a bank-clerk? The answer is that he devised a system 
of swindling the bank, admirable in its simplicity and effec 
tiveness, the devising and conduct of which on the part of 
Goudie is hard to reconcile with his crass stupidity in other 
directions. Goudie was in charge of the accounts of custo- 



8o LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

mers, whose names began with the initials H, I, J, K, thus 
including Mr Hudson, the millionaire soap-manufacturer. 
He opened an account of his own, so that he could get 
cheques, and to these he forged Mr Hudson's signature. 
After the cheques had been uttered they came to the bank 
for payment, where they were given to a clerk in the clearing 
department, who would enter them in a journal and then 
hand them over to Goudie for the purpose of making an 
entry in the ledger. Goudie, however, did not enter them 
into the ledger, but simply ticked the journal as if he had; 
then, instead of placing the forged cheques upon the file, he 
destroyed them. The scheme, therefore, was simplicity 
itself, but there were, of course, further obstacles to over 
come. There was, for instance, the weekly bank sheet, but 
this he coped with by entering false debits. The auditings 
presented greater difficulties, for here he had to supply 
details for the inspection of the auditors. He dealt with 
this too, however, by entering a false debit to the account 
a few days before the audit ; this entry appeared for the 
space of the audit, and he then rectified it by making a false 
credit entry so that attention- was not called to the account. 
So successful was his scheme of fraud, in fact, that at the 
conclusion of the case, Mr Justice Bigham, who was a high 
authority on commercial matters Rufus Isaacs was to plead 
before him two years later in the Whittaker- Wright case 
said: " I am quite satisfied that no blame is to be imputed 
to the Bank of Liverpool for the very serious losses they 
have sustained. I think that no care could have prevented 
these frauds from being practised. 7 ' And, however dis 
quieting that statement might have been to honest citizens, 
accustomed to deposit their savings in the Bank, it was at all 
events high tribute to the ingenuity of the ingenuous 
Goudie. 

But such a dance, played to such a rollicking measure, 
could not go on for ever. On November 2 ist, Goudie was 
called up to explain the absence of a certain cheque from the 
file. He saw that discovery was inevitable, but he did not 
lose his head j he merely said that the porter must have 



THE LIVERPOOL BANK CASE 81 

mislaid it, and, while the porter was being sent for, Goudie 
left the room, picked up his hat and umbrella, and unosten 
tatiously decided there and then to resign from the service 
of the Bank, from which he had taken 160,000. On 
December 2nd he was found in a cheap lodging-house, 
living in abject penury, and was arrested. Meanwhile 
Burge had been arrested, but Mances had made good his 
escape, while Marks had gone from Liverpool to Brighton 
and then across the Channel by way of Newhaven; he then 
wired to Inspector Frost that he was returning, and the 
Inspector met the boat at Newhaven. There a search soon 
revealed Marks' bag, but there was no sign of him; he was 
therefore assumed, " on not entirely convincing evidence," 
as the Times remarked, to have jumped overboard and com 
mitted suicide. As for Kelly and Stiles, Stiles absconded 
when it was known that the frauds were discovered, but 
Kelly came forward in Manchester, and said that his dealings 
with Goudie were ordinary betting transactions. Colour 
was ^ given to this contention by the fact that some of the 
earlier cheques given by Goudie to Kelly were bona fide 
documents, but unfortunately for Kelly, in supplying evi 
dence for his point of view, he handed over by mistake two 
incriminating letters, which revealed the conspiracy between 
him and Stiles. Consequently charges were preferred against 
Goudie, the dupe, and all five rogues, who had taken 
advantage in their own interest of that rare combination 
in him of a capacity to believe them and to deceive others. 
The charge contained a great variety of counts, for forgery, 
conspiracy to obtain by false pretences, and unlawful receiv 
ing were all represented. Goudie took the prudent course 
of detaching himself from his associates and pleading guilty 
on all counts, while all of them except Marks and Mances 
who were not available pleaded not guilty. Their position, 
however, was rendered all the more difficult, since, owing 
to Goudie's plea of guilty, he was now available as a witness 
for the Crown. 

This representative, if not entirely distinguished, collection 
of sharpers brought to the Court an array of counsel which 



82 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

was at once representative and distinguished. Mr Charles 
Gill, K.C., led Mr Charles Matthews for the Crown, 
Surge's defence being entrusted to Mr Horace Avory, K.C., 
and that of Kelly and Stiles respectively to Rufus Isaacs 
and Mr Marshall Hall, while Goudie was represented by 
a rising young junior from Liverpool, whose performance 
hi this case first brought him prominently before the Lon 
don public, and whose name was F. E. Smith. The case 
came on at the Old Bailey on February lyth, 1902, and was 
tried by Mr Justice Bigham, equally famous under that 
designation and subsequently as Lord Mersey. 

The trial of Burge, Goudie, Marks and Mances was pro 
ceeded with first j as Goudie had pleaded guilty and Marks 
and Mances were not in Court, this meant the trial of 
Burge. Kelly and Stiles were not directly interested in these 
proceedings, as their transactions with Goudie were distinct 
from Surge's, but there was a close enough analogy to make 
the conduct and decision of this case of the utmost importnce 
to Kelly and Stiles, and consequently it was closely watched 
by Rufus Isaacs and Marshall Hall. Charles Gill opened 
the case for the Crown with a lengthy exposition of the 
facts of the case. He then put Goudie into the box, who 
told his extraordinary story in a frank manner j and indeed 
the very strangeness of the story made it most unlikely 
that he was lying. He remained unshaken, too, under Mr 
Avory's long and penetrating cross-examination, and at the 
conclusion of the Crown's case, the prospect looked very 
black for Burge. Mr Avory put him in the witness-box, 
where he maintained that he had had no idea that " Scott " 
was a clerk in the Bank of Liverpool. He thought that he 
was a rich man, indulging in bona fide betting transactions, 
and that he (Burge) was to take half Marks' proceeds. But 
when Mr Gill cross-examined him, closely and mercilessly, 
about his financial difficulties, his connection with Mances, 
and the telegrams which Marks had dictated to him, he 
did very badly, and finally the ex-pugilist burst into tears. 
In his speech to the jury, Mr Avory tried to redeem the 
situation by attacking the tendency of the Criminal Evidence 



THE LIVERPOOL BANK CASE 83 

Act it was still only four years old to treat a case of 
suspicion as a case of proof, unless the prisoner made a good 
appearance in the witness-box. He also strongly attacked 
Goudie's credibility as a witness, and said that the whole 
question in the case really was whether Burge knew that 
" Scott " was really Goudie, a clerk in the Bank of Liver 
pool j if it was not made out by the evidence that he did 
and he contended that it was not then Surge's conduct 
was quite consistent with the evidence which he had given. 
In spite, however, of Mr Avory's skilful dialectics, the 
jury only required five minutes to find Burge guilty. 

The conviction of Burge presented a difficult problem to 
Rufus Isaacs and Marshall Hall in respect of their defence 
of Kelly and Stiles, for the result of Surge's case made it 
clear that Goudie's evidence would be believed. Burge, 
too, had had one great advantage which Kelly and Stiles 
had not 5 for, curiously enough, Goudie had never set eyes 
on Burge until he saw him in Court it was Mances who 
had spoken to Goudie in Liverpool. In spite of this, Burge 
had been unanimously found guilty in five minutes, and in 
face of this verdict there was clearly very little hope for 
Kelly and Stiles. Was there nothing to be done, except to 
fight the case, knowing it to be hopeless? Most men would 
probably have assumed that there was not, and have made 
vigorous, eloquent, and quite useless speeches on behalf of 
their clients. But the prisoners had the advantage of being 
defended by no ordinary counsel. It was perceived that 
there were differences between this case and Surge's 5 a 
practical difference, since technical difficulties with regard to 
evidence and jurisdiction were likely to arise, if the case 
were pressed, and an ethical difference since Stiles and 
Kelly had used no threats. In view of these facts, counsel 
came to the conclusion that the best policy for Kelly and 
Stiles would be to withdraw their plea of not guilty on the 
first count, that of conspiracy, for which the maximum sen 
tence was two years' hard labour, in the hope that the Crown 
would accept a conviction on this one count, and not proceed 
further with the prosecution. Accordingly, when their case 



84 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

came up on February 2Oth, Kelly and Stiles, acting under 
the advice of Rufus Isaacs and Marshall Hall, followed 
this course. The tactics were entirely successful, for Charles 
Gill, on behalf of the Crown, accepted the plea and did not 
pursue the case, for the reasons given above. 

Rufus Isaacs then addressed the Court on behalf of Kelly, 
stressing the absence of intimidation, and pointing out that 
Kelly did actually make bets with bookmakers on Goudie's 
behalf, and that, except on the first instance when a discretion 
was left him, Goudie had selected the horses for himself. 
After Marshall Hall had followed on the same lines for 
Stiles, the Court adjourned until the 22nd, when the ques 
tion of restitution was to be discussed. 

On the 22nd after Chartres Biron lately retired from 
his London Police-Court magistracy at Bow Street had ad 
dressed the Court in mitigation for Surge, F. E. Smith 
spoke in mitigation for Goudie. It is curious that a man, 
whose reputation rested primarily on clarity of reasoning, 
and power of invective, should have made his first notable 
appearance in London with a speech in mitigation j but his 
speech on this occasion displayed those powers of eloquence 
and versatility of application which were so characteristic 
of the late Lord Birkenhead. He contended that Goudie 
had embarked on a career of fraud to try and make resti 
tution to the Bank for the first 100 which he had forged. 
" His object," he went on, " in the betting transactions he 
made was to replace the money in the bank. It was not 
to enjoy the proceeds of robbery. In the whole history of 
crime, there is not a case in which a man has enjoyed him 
self so little as the result of his crime as Goudie has. It 
is not on record that he had spent a farthing of the money 
on personal indulgence ; on the contrary there is the strongest 
reason for believing he did not do so, as the expenses of his 
board and lodging only amounted to i a week." Rufus 
Isaacs then spoke again on behalf of Kelly, pointing out that 
he was anxious to make full restitution, had in fact restored 
18,000, and had been in custody for three months already, 
awaiting trial. Marshall Hall then rose to make a further 



THE LIVERPOOL BANK CASE 85 

appeal on behalf of Stiles, but this constant procession of 
counsel was too much for Mr Justice Bigham's patience. 

" How many more speeches am I to hear? " he said. 
" I heard you on Thursday." 

The remark was not very fair, as Rufus Isaacs had ad 
dressed the Court twice without comment. A soft answer 
would, however, no doubt have turned away wrath, but 
soft answers did not spring very readily to Marshall Hall's 
lips and, in spite of all that Rufus Isaacs could do, he 
replied: 

" I don't think your lordship did hear me; your lordship 
did not wish to hear me." 

The scene which followed and the ultimate reconciliation 
are described in Mr Marjoribanks' Life of Marshall Hall. 

After Marshall Hall had spoken, Goudie was asked if he 
had anything to say, and, on his replying " No," Mr Justice 
Bigham proceeded to sentence the prisoners. Goudie and 
Burge received ten years penal servitude each, while Kelly 
and Stiles escaped with two years hard labour, the maximum 
penalty for the charge, on which they had been convicted. 
Mr Justice Bigham remarked in sentencing them that he 
would have been glad to inflict a heavier sentence, and that 
comment is perhaps the best commendation of the tactics 
pursued by defending counsel on behalf of their clients. 

So ended this strange case.* It may fairly be doubted 
whether in the whole course of his professional life and a 
comprehensive practice at the Bar brings a wide range of 
clients of every sort Rufus Isaacs ever had a more dis 
reputable client than Kelly. But even he was the instru 
ment in evoking a notable instance of Rufus Isaacs' flair for 
the tactical conduct of a case, a branch of his profession in 
which he was peculiarly at home. But, apart from this, 
no one could fairly regret his participation in a case which 
in many of its aspects was unique to the point of incredibility, 
and not least in the character of its principal figure, Goudie, 
of whom Mr Justice Bigham said: " I do not know whether 

* Burge made good again on coming out of prison, resumed hi? boxing 
career and fought in the War. 



86 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

to marvel more at the wickedness of his folly or the folly 
of his wickedness." 

Very different was the case of Suffield v. Labouchere, in 
which Rufus Isaacs appeared two months later. For Suffield 
was Lord Suffield, soldier, courtier, administrator, and 
Master of Fox-hounds, while Labouchere, known to all as 
" Labby," was the Right Honourable H. H. Labouchere, 
M.P., lately a Minister of the Crown. The action was one 
for libel brought by Lord Suffield in respect of certain 
articles which had appeared during 1 900 in Truth, of which 
Labouchere was proprietor. Now Truth, under the able 
administration of Mr Labouchere and his editor, Mr 
Vowles, had established a formidable reputation as the fear 
less exposer of " bogus " companies and commercial 
" ramps." Libel actions were brought against them by 
promoters and financiers, stung into action by the provocative 
directness of Truth, but they always failed, and Messrs. 
Labouchere and Vowles went on their way rejoicing. 

In 1900, they decided that a commercial club known as 
the Article Club was a ramp. The club had been founded 
in connection with a paper called Commerce, which was 
owned by a Jewish gentleman named Cowen, and contained 
articles on leading business firms. The club was founded for 
the purpose of giving leading commercial people an oppor 
tunity of meeting and discussing matters of commercial 
interest together, but a condition of membership was that an 
article about the firm (only one firm being admitted for each 
industry) should appear in Commerce and that 300 should 
be paid the first year as a subscription. Truth, however, 
took the view that all this was only an elaborate fagade to 
conceal a ramp for enlarging Cowen's advertising connection. 
Consequently when the Chinese Minister, anxious to visit 
British industrial centres with a view to facilitating the 
founding of industries in Shanghai and Peking, put himself 
under the auspices of the Article Club for the purpose of a 
tour, Truth published an article called " The Celestial 
Pilgrim's Progress " ; in the article occurred a passage which 
ran: " a finer dodge for enlarging an advertising connection 



THE LIVERPOOL BANK CASE 87 

no newspaper has ever invented. . . . How much longer will 
these distinguished persons (i.e. the members of the council) 
continue to patronise such a piece of impudent and trans 
parent* humbug? " Now the Council of the Club, which was 
in a supervisory capacity, the committee being the executive, 
contained many distinguished names, and Lord Suffield, the 
President of the Club since 1898, held an office which had 
previously been successively held by Lord Winchelsea, Lord 
Jersey, and Lord Strathcona. Another article made direct 
reference to Lord Suffield and ran: " the consultative 
council is, I presume, a more or less ornamental body. It 
must be pointed out, however . . . that if the whole concern 
is, as many of the members consider it, a ramp, they are, 
whether ornamental or active members, personally partici 
pating in that ramp . . . they serve in fact . . . the purposes 
of decoys by means of which the smaller birds are lured into 
the snare. . . . This remark applies more particularly to Lord 
Suffield, the President of the Club." 

This was plain speaking; but it was positively mincing 
words when compared with the references to Cowen. One 
of these ran: " Eight years ago Lawrence Cohen and his 
brother were a pair of bankrupt Hatton Garden Hebrews 
unable to offer a shilling in the pound to the creditors whom 
they had swindled. The cuter of the two, concealing his 
identity under an imposing pseudonym, manages somehow 
to start, or to obtain the control of, a commercial newspaper. 
He forms the magnificent idea of forming those who adver 
tise in his paper into a club. . . . From every commercial 
member of his c club ' he obtains for himself upwards of 
300 in hard cash. . . . He launches wild-cat companies for 
them to subscribe to, and thereby gets sums out of them in 
hard cash to the tune of over 60,000 for himself, his 
relatives, and friends. He works the trick so well that at 
the end of three years, having remained all this time an 
undischarged bankrupt, he is able to pay off all his creditors 
and still remain a man of considerable means. ... If he is 
the clever Hebrew that his history suggests, he will lose no 
time in securing whatever there is left of the swag and 



88 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 
returning to the obscurity of Hatton Garden or elsewhere, 
for he may rely on it that, so far as Commerce and the 
Article Club are concerned, the game is up." This appeared 
on March 22nd, and on April 26th, it was followed up with 
a further article, which said: "In fairness to him (the 
Chinese Minister) it ought, I think, to be assumed, until he 
has an opportunity of vindicating himself that he has been 
in this case the dupe of a crafty and unscrupulous adventurer, 
who has grossly abused his confidence." The result of the 
campaign was that Lord Suffield and Cowen both .brought 

actions for libel. f 

The two actions, although arising from the same set ot 
facts were quite distinct; Mr Labouchere and Mr Vowles 
were joined as co-defendants, but Lord Suffield and Mr 
Cowen were plaintiffs in separate proceedings. In the hrst 
action, which was Lord Suffield's, Rufus Isaacs, who led for 
Lord Suffield, again crossed swords with Sir Edward Clarke, 
who appeared for Labouchere. In opening the case, Rutus 
Isaacs outlined the facts and said that the suggestion was 
that Lord Suffield had been paid to allow his name to appear 
as President, and that the Club was a swindle and he knew 
it. The whole gravamen of the attack really was that, 
because Cowen had previously failed in business, and was 
making money out of his paper Commerce, which was_quite 
a legitimate thing to do, the Club was necessarily a swindle. 
The defence set great store by the complaint of Messrs. 
Milner that, although by the rules only one firm was 
admitted for each industry and they already represented 
safes, Sir George Chubb was allowed in as representing locks. 
This they said showed that the Club had no bona fides; 
but then," said Rufus Isaacs, if Messrs. Whiteley were 
admitted as ' universal providers,' no one else could have 
been admitted at all." He concluded by pointing out that 
there were two real questions for the jury: whether the 
Article Club was a swindle; and whether Lord Sumeld as 
President had done anything dishonourable. He then put 
Lord Suffield into the box, who had several passages with 
Sir Edward Clarke in cross-examination. Sir Edward asked: 



THE LIVERPOOL BANK CASE 89 

" Are you a member of the Committee of the Club? " 

" I am not quite certain whether I am, but I think I am 
an ex officio member. I have attended the meeting." 

" What had the Committee to do? " 

" I do not wish to be rude to you, but if you do not know 
what the committee of a club does, I am afraid I cannot 
teach you." 

Sir Edward then, having read at length from the issue of 
Truth of February ist, 1900, asked if there were any state 
ments of fact in it. 

" Very few," broke in Lord Suffield. 

" Which are untrue? " continued Sir Edward quietly. 

" I should take a long time pointing them out," retorted 
Lord Suffield. But it is only fair to Sir Edward Clarke to 
say that the witness showed commendable restraint in the 
amount of time which he actually used in pointing them out. 

Later Sir Edward asked him what meaning he attached 
to the word a ramp." 

" I have looked the word out in all dictionaries," came the 
answer, " and in most of them it is defined as a c discreditable 
undertaking,' and in one I think Webster's a * gathering 
of dishonourable men.' I anticipated that question and so 
looked it up." 

Sir Edward then cross-examined him as to some of the 
companies of which he had been chairman. In reference to 
one, he asked why it had been wound up. 

" I think I can tell you," replied Lord Suffield amid 
laughter. " I was chairman." 

But the quips were by now concealing a very real annoy 
ance, and Lord Suffield burst out with an angry inquiry as to 
by what right counsel was going into these matters. At this 
Rufus Isaacs rose and said that if Sir Edward was cross- 
examining as to credit, he could not of course object 5 but if 
not, he was not entitled to go into questions which were not 
raised in the particulars of justification. Sir Edward replied 
that he was not cross-examining as to credit, but was entitled 
to ask questions about the companies with which Lord 
Suffield had been connected, and he was allowed to continue. 



90 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

At the conclusion of his cross-examination, however, Lord 
Suffield gave vent to his feelings, and indignantly denounced 
the attempts to discredit him. " They don't originate with 
counsel," he shouted, " but with that gentleman there, who 
chooses to pose as a high moral character," and he pointed 
accusingly at " Labby," who stood unmoved at the back of 
the Court. 

Evidence was then given by Sir John Heron-Maxwell, 
Sir Horace Tozer, Agent-General for Queensland, Dr Far- 
quharson, M.P., who regarded the money which he had 
invested in the Doherty Casting Process as " not lost but 
gone before," and the Servian Minister, who had " invited 
himself to the dinner of the Club." Finally there was Mr. 
John Dixon, who had escorted the Chinese Minister to 
Southampton and shown him a Japanese warship j the 
Chinese Minister, however, had refused to go aboard, and 
when Mr Dixon told him that it was the " finest ship afloat, 
he had hardly seemed to appreciate the fact." But Rufus 
Isaacs and Sir Edward Clarke had already been in consul 
tation, and, at the conclusion of Dixon's cross-examination, 
Rufus Isaacs rose and said that Sir Edward had intimated to 
him that the defendants made no imputation on Lord 
Suffield's honour, integrity, or veracity. In the circum 
stances he did not ask for damages, being much more satisfied 
with Sir Edward's statement. After a statement by Sir 
Edward, a juror was withdrawn, that being the procedure 
in a civil case, when it is settled during the hearing and 
before a verdict has been arrived at. 

The case of Cowen V. Labouchere then came up, but in 
this Rufus Isaacs played a smaller part, since he was led by 
Lawson Walton and did not address the jury. After an 
extended hearing and a summing-up not unfavourable to 
Cowen, the jury at the end of an hour and twenty-five 
minutes announced that there was no prospect of their 
coming to an agreement. The case, therefore, was heard 
again some months later, but this time Cowen conducted his 
own case, which he did with astonishing skill; and his final 
speech to the jury was given with a rapid, passionate, and 



THE LIVERPOOL BANK CASE 91 

sometimes tearful eloquence, which was most moving. In 
spite o all, however, the verdict went against him, and 
" Labby " had triumphed again. It was somewhat of a 
Pyrrhic victory, however, for his costs in the three cases 
were enormous, and he had received a check, though scarcely 
a defeat, in the first at the hands of Rufus Isaacs. 

But by the time these proceedings reached their conclusion, 
Rufus Isaacs had long passed to fresh fields, and was 
engaged simultaneously in two cases, one of enormous 
popular interest, and the other of great sociological import 
ance, which brought him more prominently into the public 
eye than ever before. 



CHAPTER VIII 

HARTOPP DIVORCE CASE AND TAFF VALE 

THE end o a century of prosperity brings leisure and 
litigation; and this is peculiarly true of the nineteenth 
century in England. The famous Tranby Croft 
baccarat case, Rufus Isaacs' own early Turf case, the 
Chetwynd-Durham suit, Sievier's subsequent action against 
Sir James Duke; all these cases reflect a way of life that is 
gone. They speak of the " spacious " lives of the leisured 
classes, of that decorative aristocracy which showed its 
adaptability by absorbing the wealthy of all classes and 
creeds, and its affability by mixing with the Bohemian 
world at the right times and places. Sometimes the even 
tenor of this unruffled existence would be broken by internal 
f actions j a magnate might slander a lord, or a Bohemian 
might intrude too far into a magnate's domestic life. And 
then the public, to its great delight for those were the days 
when a Turf personality was more powerful than a Trades 
Union leader would find in the sombre atmosphere of the 
Courts the curtain lifted on those remote and fascinating 
lives, and would glimpse for a moment the world of country 
houses, of County stands, of Romano's and of the Cafe 
Royal; of that existence which was all the more glamorous 
because the daily Press had not yet cast on it the disenchant 
ment of publicity. 

It is to this category that the Hartopp divorce case 
belongs j and indeed, curiously enough, the case has a link 
with the Baccarat case, for Lady Hartopp was the daughter 
of Charles Wilson, M.P., the wealthy shipowner who later 
became Lord Nunburnholme, and a connection of Mrs 
Arthur Wilson, owner of Tranby Croft. She was also on 
her mother's side descended from the great Duke of 

92 



THE HARTOPP DIVORCE CASE 93 

Wellington, and was one of several sisters and cousins., 
daughters of Charles Wilson and of Mrs Arthur Wilson, 
who as debutantes had been the reigning beauties of the day. 
In June, 1895, at the age of twenty-two she married an 
easy-going baronet of thirty-seven, Sir Charles Cradock- 
Hartopp, and the couple went to live first in Mount Street 
and then in Seymour Street. Sir Charles was a short, 
stoutly-built man, with a " sporting " complexion his wife 
called him " Bundle " because of his figure, as she explained 
whose good nature was his best quality. He was not 
rich he had 1400 a year, while Lady Hartopp had 1800 
and his financial position was such that he had put his 
property into the hands of trustees, Mr Ingoldsby and Mr 
Charles Wilson, who paid him the 14005 but in spite of 
this he had had to make frequent applications to Charles 
Wilson for financial assistance. But there were other 
difficulties besides his financial embarrassment. His tastes 
differed from Lady Hartopp's; but only, let it at once be 
added, within the sphere of interests then considered proper 
to their station. That is to say, Sir Charles liked racing and 
living in London, while his wife liked hunting and the 
country. And when, in addition to this, he started objecting 
to her friendship with Sir John Willoughby, of Jameson 
Raid fame, it seemed to Lady Hartopp that he was losing 
even his good-nature, so in August, 1900, she left him. 

In the autumn of 1900, Lady Hartopp took Gaddesby 
Cottage, near Melton Mowbray, for the hunting. Now the 
cottage was only two and a half miles from Baggrave Hall, 
which was owned by Lord Cowley, who had been divorced 
by his former wife, Lady Violet Nevill, daughter of the 
Marquess of Abergavenny, in 1897, and had since then seen 
a year's service in the South African War. The two met out 
hunting a great deal, and soon were on very friendly terms, 
Lord Cowley being a frequent caller at the cottage. But 
her country pursuits did not make Lady Hartopp forget the 
problem of her husband, and in the following spring she 
suggested that she should give Sir Charles 20,000 if he 
would allow her to divorce him. Finding, however, that 



94 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

this proposition was illegal, she resolved on an effort at 
reconciliation, and wrote to him: " I can't let Easter pass 
without writing to say that I do wish we could start afresh 
once more. Let us put the past behind us, and try and begin 
all over again." The result was an interview, with Lord 
Gerard acting as mediator, and Lady Hartopp outlined her 
conditions, which were: that the past should not be referred 
to; that they should have no London house, but that the 
cottage should be kept; and that they should embark on a 
six months' trial, and, in the event of failure, separate. The 
conditions did not meet with Sir Charles' approval, and 
negotiations broke down. Lady Hartopp returned to 
Gaddesby Cottage, and in due course was served with Sir 
Charles' petition for divorce, on the ground of her adultery 
with Lord Cowley. Lady Hartopp and Lord Cowley filed 
an answer denying the charge, and subsequently on Novem 
ber 1 5th, 1902, eleven days before the trial Lady Hartopp 
amended her answer and put in a cross-petition, alleging 
that Sir Charles had been guilty of cruelty and of adultery 
with Mrs Sands, a beautiful actress living apart from her 
husband. 

The case had all the ingredients of a cause celebre. The 
principal parties were a Society beauty, a hunting earl, a 
racing baronet, and a lovely Edwardian enchantress. It was 
one of those cases in which all Debrett and his staff gave 
evidence, and the witnesses ranged from the Duke of 
Devonshire to parlour-maids and stable lads. There were 
concealed identities, too, and whispers of great names in 
unsavoury connections, while delightfully spirited passages 
occurred between leaders of Society and leaders of the Bar; 
for Debrett had decided to brief and had spared no expense. 
Sir Charles had Mr Lawson Walton, K.C., Mr Henry Duke, 
K.C., the great divorce lawyer, subsequently famous as Lord 
Merrivale, and Mr Barnard; Lady Hartopp countered with 
Mr Inderwick, K.C., Sir Edward Clarke, K.C., Mr Priestly 
and Mr Wontner, and in half alliance with these was Lord 
Cowley's team, consisting of Mr Bargrave Deane, K.C., 
later a Divorce Court Judge, Mr Charles Gill, K.C., and 



THE HARTOPP DIVORCE CASE 95 

Mr Pritchardj while the intervention of Mrs Sands was 
championed by Rufus Isaacs, supported by Mr Kisch. In 
all these circumstances enormous public interest was to be 
expected, and people who had never been near the Courts 
before vied with those to whom it was an habitual entertain 
ment. Lovers of sensation, connoisseurs of legal argument, 
snobs, and devotees of forensic oratory mingled outside the 
tiny Court in their efforts to get places, and simultaneously 
devoured, if unsuccessful, the daily reports of proceedings in 
the Press j while every day fashionably-dressed women, 
lorgnette in hand and smelling-salts in reserve, were to be 
seen in the corridors shrilly demanding entry with all the 
imperious insistence of pampered femininity, and soundly 
rating the unfortunate ushers for the preference they gave 
to the wig and stuff gown of apprentice counsel. Vox et 
<praeterea nihil; through the clamour of crowds and the 
hysteria of popular excitement the majesty of the Law took 
its stately course, unheeding. 

On the day of the opening of the trial before Mr Justice 
Gorrell Barnes, there was a goodly muster of the leading 
dramatis personse. Lady Hartopp arrived with her father 
in a smart brougham, and sat in Court, a tall, youthful figure 
with light brown hair, listening to Mr Lawson Walton open 
the case for Sir Charles, who sat, short, stocky, scant of hair, 
nervously smiling at his unaccustomed situation. Lord 
Cowley was there too, sitting rather apart, until he was 
joined by Sir John Willoughby, who had come to Court to 
answer any charges that might be made against him. The 
only notable absentee was Mrs Sands, who was not yet a 
protagonist} for at this stage of the case she was only a 
witness, and it was not till the fourth day of the trial that 
Mr Kisch announced that she desired independent repre 
sentation. Rufus Isaacs' part in the opening of the case, 
therefore, was merely that of a careful spectator. 

After Mr Lawson Walton had opened the case, he put 
Sir Charles Hartopp in the box to tell the story of his 
married life. Sir Charles did not make a very good witness, 
and was considerably harried in cross-examination by Mr 



96 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

Inderwick on the subject of his finances, and in the course of 
cross-examination he had to admit in addition, applying to 
his father-in-law to pay off a discarded mistress. On the 
second day, therefore, he went back into the witness-box to 
" smooth off, with the tactful aid of Mr Lawson Walton, 
K.C., the ragged edges left by Mr Inderwick's cross- 
examination." His place in the box was then taken by a 
succession of Lady Hartopp's maids, who had been sub 
poenaed on behalf of the petitioner. There was Alice 
Blythe, the housemaid, who said that Lord Cowley used the 
bathroom at Gaddesby Cottage after hunting, and also used 
to change there. He used to do odd jobs, too, like hanging 
pictures, and on one occasion, when she went up to the 
boudoir to give him a telegram, she found him buttoning up 
his waistcoat. Edith Mason disagreed with Alice about the 
boudoir not being used in the evenings j but then her 
memory appeared to play tricks with her, for she spoke of 
having seen Lord Cowley in a pink coat at a time during 
the cubbing season, when pink coats are not worn except by 
the Master. Ethel Freestone gave evidence that sounded 
more significant, but when pressed for details, she became 
bashful. She said that, in consequence of what was taking 
place, she had written to her mother, who thereupon took 
her awayj but beyond saying that she did not consider that 
Lady Hartopp and Lord Cowley were behaving properly, 
she was uncommunicative. Mr Justice Gorrell Barnes asked 
her what she had seen to make her say this, but, though he 
repeated his question two or three times, she refused to 
answer. Later in the trial she was recalled at the request 
of the jury, for it was clear that she might have something 
to say of vital importance. All she would say, however, 
was: 

" I saw nothing, no more than I have said." 

" What do you mean by not behaving properly? " the 
foreman insisted. 

" I know no more than I have said." 

" Are you speaking the truth when you say you saw 
nothing improper? " 



THE HARTOPP DIVORCE CASE 97 

" I saw nothing wrong," came back the obdurate answer, 
and in face of this even the foreman desisted. 

It was not a particularly strong case that the petitioner 
had built up. It had been established, it is true, that Lord 
Cowley was a frequent caller at the cottage, and that he 
used it to bath and change inj but adultery cannot be in 
ferred from friendliness or hygiene, nor can it depend on an 
unbuttoned waistcoat on a gentleman who is hanging 
pictures. Definite evidence of adultery in a disputed case is, 
for obvious reasons, rare 5 and where there is no such 
evidence, the jury must be satisfied that there was a guilty 
desire on the part of the persons concerned and an oppor 
tunity of gratifying it, before they may infer an act of 
adultery. In this case, the opportunity amounted to no more 
than the " opportunity " which any two people have, who 
are alone at any time of day Lord Cowley never stayed 
the night at Gaddesby Cottage 5 as for the guilty desire, the 
case for the petitioner had been to graft this on to an obvious 
affection and the alleged use of endearing names. Sir 
Edward Clarke, on rising to address the Court for Lady 
Hartopp, took full advantage of the somewhat flimsy 
structure of the edifice, which he was called upon to 
destroy, and said at once that, had it been an ordinary case 
of civil liability, he would have submitted that there was no 
case to go to the jury; but since reputation was at stake, he 
preferred to have the matter thoroughly thrashed out. He 
pointed out that there was no evidence of any specific act of 
impropriety, and claimed that much of the case was mere 
servants' tittle-tattle, which could not be depended upon, 
since there did not exist " a household in which domestic 
servants do not find fault with the behaviour of their masters 
and mistresses." He then took the offensive and trained 
the massed artillery of his eloquence upon Sir Charles. He 
referred to the facts that, when Sir Charles proposed to 
marry, he was 8000 in debt ; " this," he said with scornful 
emphasis, " was the state of affairs, when this girl of twenty- 
two was committed to the guardianship of this experienced 
man of the world." He then came on to the cross-petition: 



98 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

" This English gentleman has not only treated his wife with 
violence, but had himself been guilty of matrimonial 
infidelity during a great part of his married life; for it has 
recently been discovered that he has been in the habit of 
visiting a very beautiful woman, who is living apart from 
her husband and is known to be accessible to gentlemen 
who are prepared to pay somewhat heavily for her 
favours." 

Here was a frontal attack on Sir Charles and Mrs Sands, 
and on the fourth day of the trial all public attention was 
focussed on Mrs Sands, a beautiful, statuesque figure in 
ermine, as she listened to Mr Kisch make formal application 
for leave to intervene in the suit and to file an answer deny 
ing the charges against her; as soon as the application was 
made and granted, Mrs Sands rose and left the Court. 
Attention was then transferred to another lovely lady, for 
Lady Hartopp, whose examination had begun on the 
previous day, re-entered the box. She presented a striking 
appearance, which would have compelled attention any 
where, with her tall graceful figure, her well-poised head, 
and the confident beauty of her person; and those whose 
interest in the case was not primarily legal and perhaps 
some, too, whose interest was primarily legal noted with 
appraising glances the rich sables, crowned with a hat of 
sables and chiffon. But she was not only a lovely lady; she 
was spirited, too, in the witness-box, as in the hunting-field, 
as her clashes with Mr Lawson Walton showed. It was 
perhaps inevitable that Lady Hartopp should come into 
conflict with the counsel who cross-examined her. For he 
was the very embodiment of Liberal nonconformity; a 
lawyer, a man of serious preoccupations and ideas, who did 
not know a horse from a handsaw, while she was the spoilt 
darling of Fortune, leading her glittering, rather empty life 
with scarcely a realisation that any other existed. It is a bold 
and generally unwise thing to throw down the gauge of 
battle to opposing counsel; for, apart from the fact that he 
is generally a person of superior ability, he is necessarily 
fighting on his own ground and knows exactly which points 



THE HARTOPP DIVORCE CASE 99 

of tactical advantage are really contributory to victory, and 
which are only a flashy exhibition of strength. Thus Oscar 
Wilde, with all his dialectical brilliance, won Pyrrhic 
victories over Carson in repartee, only to lose his case, his 
liberty, and his reputation. But Lady Hartopp had certain 
exceptional advantages ; in the first place, the petitioner had 
not been able to present a very strong case, which meant 
that Mr Lawson Walton would have to strain points of 
minor importance. Further she had the inestimable advan 
tage of being a woman, for a clever woman can use tactics 
which are not available to men and can make subtle appeals 
to the jury, which it is difficult to discount ; Lady Hartopp, 
therefore, could at least claim a drawn battle. 

The first bout came early. Mr Lawson Walton was cross- 
examining her about her friends. 

" Do you not know that the choice of your friends has 
been brought to the notice of your husband? It may have 
been." 

" Do you not know that your mother had given advice 
to Sir Charles on the subject? No, I do not." 

" And did not your mother write to him on the subject? 
Just look at that letter. Don't be afraid of it." 

" I am not a coward." The retort was thrown back with 
spirit. 

"Just look at it 5 we shall see about that," was the dry 
comment. 

Lady Hartopp disclaimed all knowledge of her mother's 
disapproval, and Mr Lawson Walton proceeded to cross- 
examine her about a friend whose name he did not wish to 
mention. The judge told him to write it down, and Mr 
Lawson Walton was continuing: " If, madam, you know to 
whom I refer," when Lady Hartopp broke in: " You heard 
what his lordship said 5 write it down." 

" You are welcome to take every advantage you can," 
said Mr Lawson Walton, flushing at this unexpected and 
imperious command j and added with a hint of menace, 
" you may want it." 

On the question of her offer of 20,000 to her husband, 



ioo LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

on condition that he would let her divorce him, Mr Lawson 
Walton again scored heavily. 

" You thought you could play on his poverty? " 

" I knew he was in debt." 

" Do you not think it was a most dishonourable thing for 
you to ask him to allow you to divorce him? " 

" I now see that it was wrong. I know more about the 
law." 

" Which law, madam? " 

" The law of England." 

" You think more about the law of England than Divine 
law. Was it morally right, do you think? " 

" I don't think it was very wrong." 

Here, in massing the ponderous artillery of ethical argu 
ment, Mr Lawson Walton was on his own ground ; but there 
were other passages where, in fencing with more delicate 
instruments, he was worsted. For instance, there was 
mention of a married man who had given Lady Hartopp a 
diamond heart, and when Mr Lawson Walton pressed her 
for his identity, she seemed to hesitate, until finally, amid 
the sudden laughter of the Court, she confessed that it was 
her brother-in-law, Mr Fairfax. A little later the Judge 
asked her why she had not mentioned earlier the chain 
bracelet which Sir John WiHoughby had given her before 
going to South Africa. " I am sorry, my Lord," she 
answered, cc but Mr Lawson Walton talks so much and tries 
to muddle me! " Mr Lawson Walton also referred to a 
telephone message of Lord Cowley's to Gaddesby Cottage, 
saying: " Don't bother to send hare; have one in the 
house," and suggested that this meant that she was dining 
with him, which she denied. 

" It is one of the many hares my friend is hunting in this 
case," observed Mr Bargrave Deane drily. 

But, although Mr Lawson Walton was apparently fond 
of coursing, his knowledge of horse-racing was not extensive. 
He was questioning Lady Hartopp about her stay in Paris. 

" In Paris," he said, " you went to the French Derby, 
Did you also go to Chantilly? " 



THE HARTOPP DIVORCE CASE 101 

" Why that is where the French Derby is run." 

Mr Lawson Walton was ruffled at the laughter, which 
greeted this lapse, and to make it good, said: " Very well, 
that was the occasion on which Holocaust broke his leg? " 

This time the Judge joined in the general laughter before 
explaining to the perplexed Mr Lawson Walton that this 
misadventure had occurred in the English Derby. Fortun 
ately for Mr Lawson Walton, however, an intimate know 
ledge of the Turf has never been considered indispensable 
to success in the Liberal Party. 

Despite their long conflict, however, when the Court met 
the following day, Lady Hartopp at once went over to Mr 
Lawson Walton, and stayed talking charmingly to him for 
a few moments. This graceful action left everybody the 
more unprepared for her father's amazing outburst j for Mr 
Charles Wilson rose in the well of the Court, and addressing 
the Judge in a voice shaken with anger, said: " I demand 
protection for my daughter from the studied insolence of 
yesterday's cross-examination," adding: " It is sufficient 
degradation for her to be tied to that lying scoundrel." The 
Court was astonished at this exhibition, but Mr Justice 
Gorrell Barnes, gentlest of judges, quietly repressed him. 
He came in for considerable criticism at the time for not 
taking firmer action, since the reference to Sir Charles 
Hartopp, who was a party to the case, was a most flagrant 
contempt of Court. Mr Justice Gorrell Barnes, however, 
took the view not always unjustified that it was better 
not to proceed to strong measures in order to punish an 
offence committed on the impulse of injured feelings. 

The case, therefore, continued, and Lord Cowley, who 
had recently been injured in the hunting-field, limped into 
the box. He did not make such a good witness as Lady 
Hartopp, and his previous matrimonial difficulties were 
raked with the fire of Lawson Walton's rigorous cross- 
examination. The following day, when, according to 
contemporary account, " quite the most striking figure in 
Court was Mrs Sands, who wore a striking costume of violet, 
trimmed with sable," was occupied chiefly in the evidence of 



102 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

servants and of friends. Among the latter who were called 
to say that on visits they had never noticed the slightest 
impropriety or familiarity of manner between Lady Hartopp 
and Lord Cowley, were Viscount Acheson, Charles Wilson, 
junior, the Earl of Essex, the Marquess of Cholmondely, 
and the Hon. Francis Lambton. At the conclusion of this 
evidence, Sir Edward Clarke said: " Mrs Fairfax would 
probably have been our only other witness on this part of 
the case, but her absence is explained by an announcement 
which appears this morning in the first column of the 
Times" For Mrs Fairfax had been the victim of a happy 
event. 

This closed the evidence on the petition, and Lady 
Hartopp's team now moved to the counter-attack in their 
effort to prove that Sir Charles had committed adultery 
with Mrs Sands. The case for the petition had not presented 
a very formidable appearance, resting as it did mainly on 
Lord Cowley's visits to Gaddesby Cottage and various 
trifling incidents which could quite well be explained without 
presuming adultery. But here at least it was admitted that 
there existed a degree of intimacy between the parties 5 in 
the case of the cross-petition on the other hand, Sir Charles 
and Mrs Sands denied having more than a nodding acquain 
tance. There was, however, this advantage in arguing the 
cross-petition, that if evidence of visits and intimacy could 
be established, there was a stronger and more immediate 
presumption of adultery. The task of collecting such 
evidence had been assigned to an ex-Scotland Yard detective, 
Inspector Conquest, who, assisted by a Mrs Stevenson and 
a Mrs Taylor, a former servant of Mrs Sands, had in a 
short space of time built up a case on the information of ex- 
servants and cabmen. The rebutting of this case in the 
interests of their clients was the joint task of Rufus Isaacs 
and Lawson Walton, and so the two of them, who had 
constituted so famous a team as leader and junior, were now 
as leaders linked in an unofficial alliance. 

The evidence for the cross-petition was opened by Mrs 
Alice Taylor, an elderly woman who was in the service of 



THE HARTOPP DIVORCE CASE 103 

Mrs Sands, who said that she had seen Sir Charles six 
times at South Street, and had taken a telegram, signed 
" Charlie," to Mrs Sands at the Cafe Royal. Her cross- 
examination by Lawson Walton provided a dramatic 
incident. She had admitted that she had been taken by 
Inspector Conquest to identify Sir Charles, and that she had 
tried to get a photograph from Mrs Butler, a former servant 
of Mrs Sands " to increase your art collection, I suppose," 
said Mr Lawson Walton showing that Mrs Sands and Sir 
Charles went to the Derby together. Mr Lawson Walton 
then produced a letter, which he said she had written to 
Miss Wilson, another former servant. The letter is worth 
reproducing for its individuality of style, rather than for 
literary quality. It ran: 

Dear Miss Wilson, 

Trusting this will find you all well. Miss W. will you kindly 
let me know by return of post if Sir Charles Hartopp went to 
the Derby with Mrs S. and Miss Clare from Gloster Terres 
the time Mrs S. was so ill that time or if you can tell me if 
he went anywhere with them and all you know about him, 
Sir Charles Hartopp I mean if you will be so kind I will make 
it well worth your wile nothing to do with Mrs Sands watever 
I have not seen her for a long time trusting to hear from you 
by return of post I remain in haste yours sincerely A. S. 
Taylor. Will write all next time. 

Mrs Taylor modestly denied authorship of this master 
piece j Mr Lawson Walton insisted. Fortunately there was 
an easy test, and the old lady stepped from the witness-box 
to the solicitors' table, where she was provided with pen and 
paper. Slowly, peeringly, she formed the reluctant letters, 
while the Court hung breathless on the scratching of her 
pen. At last she was done, and the paper was handed back 
to Mr Lawson Walton j he inspected it, and gave it to 
Rufus Isaacs, sitting next him, who read it and nodded. It 
was then given to Mr Inderwick who did the same, while 
the junior counsel craned forward from behind, and Sir 
George Lewis leant back from the seat in front to try and see 



104 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

it. Mr Lawson Walton then announced with quiet triumph 
that the comparison left no doubt. The eccentric vagaries of 
spelling were reproduced, the writer of the two documents 
was clearly the same. This was too much for old Mrs 
Taylor 3 she was seen to sway, and was carried half-fainting 
from the Court. 

On her return in the afternoon, she was cross-examined 
by Rufus Isaacs 5 he elicited from her the admission that 
her memory was not good, though she had relied on it 
entirely in fixing the dates of the events which she narrated. 
But there was little to be got out of her, for the old woman 
was still dazed, frightened and obstinate. Rufus Isaacs 
dealt gently with her and did not press her; indeed it was 
unnecessary, for she was already a thoroughly discredited 
witness. Indeed the bullying of witnesses, apart from the 
decencies involved, has no part in great advocacy 5 good 
counsel never find it necessary or desirable to bully a witness. 
Thus Carson's cross-examination of Wilde cannot in any 
way be said to have been a bullying one, while Rufus Isaacs 7 
cross-examinations of Whittaker Wright, of Seddon, and of 
J. B. Joel in the Sievier case, though in each he had to be 
persistent and relentless, are equally free from any taint of 
bullying ; in the Seddon case, it is significant that Rufus 
Isaacs always addressed the prisoner as " Mr Seddon." It 
is left to inferior counsel to try and mask their own 
inadequacy by bluster and discourtesy j but it is a device that 
rarely impresses a jury, and never deceives the Bench. 

The eighth day of the trial was occupied largely with 
the evidence of cabmen, shop assistants and so on, who had 
for the most part been very recently imported into the case 
by the efforts of Inspector Conquest and his satellites. There 
was Herbert Law, a sturdy, elderly cabdriver, who professed 
to have driven Sir Charles with Mrs Sands and to be able 
to identify him; there was Robert Colebourne, who said 
the same, and there was Henry Summerfield, who went so 
far as to specify the places to which he had driven them 
the Cafe Royal, Romano's, Prince's, the Empire and so on. 
Summerfield, who said that he had called oh Charles Wilson, 



THE HARTOPP DIVORCE CASE 105 

when he read Mrs Sands' name in the reports of the case, 
was cross-examined by Rufus Isaacs. 

" How came you to call on Mr Wilson? " he was asked. 
" I don't know. I found his name in the directory." 
" No thought of money ever entered your head, eh? " 
" No, never; 39 said the disinterested fellow stoutly. 
Mr Lawson Walton then recalled Sir Charles to the box 
to give his evidence on the cross-petition. This time he 
made a very good impression, bluntly maintaining that the 
whole story of his visits to Mrs Sands was a lie. He had 
never been to her house, either in Graham Street, or South 
Street, and had never taken her to restaurants. He had met 
her in 1897 at the Savoy, and subsequently seen her at 
race-meetings and so on 5 once he had made a bet for her. 
That was the extent of their acquaintance. The good im 
pression lasted through his cross-examination by Sir Edward 
Clarke, for he remained quite unshaken in his story of the 
facts. The next day the Duke of Devonshire gave evidence, 
but, as so often happens in these cases, the importance of the 
evidence was in inverse ratio to that of the individual giving 
it. More important was the evidence of Edward Sargent, 
who amused the Court by saying that in the course of 1890 
he was valet to Mr Justice Hawkins, and was then familiar 
with gentlemen who moved in sporting circles. He said 
that his wife had been told by Conquest that it was worth 
100 to her if she could identify Sir Charles; he also knew 
of a man called " Sir Charles " who visited Mrs Sands, 
but he thought he was neither a knight nor a baronet, as 
" Mrs Sands was fond of conferring courtesy titles on her 
friends." Mrs Butler, also formerly in Mrs Sands' service, 
said that neither Mrs Stevenson nor Mrs Taylor had seemed 
familiar with Sir Charles' photograph. 

Rufus Isaacs then called Mrs Sands. He realised that 
the cross-petition had been unable to present a strong case, 
and that he and Lawson Walton had wrought havoc among 
the hastily and professionally collected evidence 3 Sir 
Charles, too, had done well. But Mrs Sands' interest must 
depend mainly on her bearing in the box, and on his skill and 



io6 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

eloquence 5 fortunately there was no need to doubt of either. 
A great, swelling rustle of expectation ran round the Court 
as Mrs Sands walked towards the box 5 before she had 
reached it, however. Lady Hartopp and her mother rose in 
their places and swept from the Court. But few had eyes 
for this diversion 5 their attention was given to the central 
figures of the drama. Some, however, perhaps may have 
cast curious glances at a silver-haired old lady sitting in a 
corner of the Court, and wondered what she was thinking; 
for it was Mrs Sands' mother, soon at a hint from the Judge 
to be joined by her husband. To them, whatever the result 
of the case, their daughter's evidence must be supremely 
and pathetically tragic, since it would reveal facts that would 
make many approve the demonstrative protest of Lady 
Hartopp and her mother; for the trial took place in 1902. 
But the crowded Court left Mrs Sands' parents to their 
thoughts and turned to the box, where Mrs Sands had 
thrown open her fur-lined jacket and, hands resting on the 
rail and head thrown back, gave her answers in a clear, sweet 
voice with the faultless articulation of a trained actress. 
And alternately, as question was given and answered, they 
turned from the handsome, erect, youthful figure of Rufus 
Isaacs to the beautiful woman in the box, as he guided her 
tactfully through the story of her life, her marriage, her 
separation, and her acquaintance scarcely more than a 
nodding acquaintance with Sir Charles Hartopp. Then, 
carefully led up to, but supremely effective in its apparent 
suddenness, came the crucial question, sounding almost 
indecent in its bluntness: 

" Have you ever been guilty of any impropriety with Sir 
Charles Hartopp? " 

And the answer, equally effective and spoken in a clear, 
musical tone: 

" Absolutely, on my solemn oath, never." 

She had perhaps considerable reason to fear cross- 
examination, but her courage was equal to it, and when 
Mr Inderwick said, " Do you say you have been leading 
a quiet and respectable life? " her answer, quiet, firm. 



THE HARTOPP DIVORCE CASE 107 

and decisive, " No, I don't say that," robbed the question of 
its sting, 

It fell to Rufus Isaacs, as counsel for the respondent in 
the cross-petition, to address the jury first. It was the tenth 
day of the trial when he spoke, and at first, of the principals 
in the case, only Sir Charles and Mrs Sands were present 5 
Mrs Sands left the Court, however, on the conclusion of 
her counsel's speech and then Lady Hartopp and her 
mother, who had clearly determined to play at a species of 
Box and Cox with Mrs Sands, re-entered the Court. Rufus 
Isaacs' speech was a triumph of its sort. The case did not 
call for technical argument, but he analysed its features with 
that rapid precision which was customary with him. He 
spoke without a note, and without hesitation a feat that is 
the more remarkable when it is remembered that his mind 
was loaded at the time with the intricate details of the great 
Taff Vale argument which he was contemporaneously con 
ducting. 

Right from the start of his speech he emphasised his 
client's favourable position in the case; she had taken only 
a small part in the controversy, and had come voluntarily 
into the witness-box, though she did not pose as a woman 
of irreproachable character. " Do not forget," he reminded 
them, " that every attempt has been made, as far as possible, 
to deter her from taking any part in the proceedings. 
Consider what sort of case it is that this lady had to meet. 
The charges that have been made against her were not put 
on the record until November I5th, or just eleven days 
before the first day of the trial." The charges had always 
been of the vaguest, as was natural when the evidence was 
procured by Conquest and his satellites, and by others whose 
names were not even revealed ; it was a " professional " case, 
built up on lavish expenditure. " All that money could do 
in searching every nook and corner has been done 5 and what 
has all the investigation brought to light? Nothing except 
the vaguest evidence." Mrs Taylor stood clearly revealed 
as guilty of wilful and deliberate perjury; as to the other 
witnesses, " I will say that the workings of their minds has 



io8 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

been lubricated, for even the scent of money in the air 
renders some people's consciences more elastic." He then 
proceeded to give a critical analysis of individual portions of 
the evidence. The cabmen, for instance j there was no 
doubt that Law had been paid, although he denied it. But 
in any case what was the value of their identification? " Is 
there anybody in Court, who after the lapse of two or three 
years, could have identified, as the cabmen say they could 
identify Sir Charles, having driven him but once or twice at 
most. And yet may we not hope that we are all as intelli 
gent as they? " Mrs Taylor knew well enough that she was 
a convicted liar; and what of Mrs Stevenson, Conquest's 
chief assistant? How comes it that Mrs Stevenson has not 
ventured into the box? She is, forsooth, the captain of the 
band arrayed against Sir Charles a ragged band enough, 
in truth j but perhaps it is enough for her to have seen Mrs 
Taylor there." But when he came to Mrs Sands' part, 
irony and criticism were abandoned, and he paid tribute to 
her conduct as a witness, for she had given her " evidence 
as truthfully as witness ever did." He ended, his voice 
strong with feeling, on a note of challenge, almost of 
triumph : " A history and a past are great deterrents for 
keeping persons from the witness-box, because they fear the 
raking-up. She has a history and a past but it has not kept 
her from the box. Every effort was made to prevent her 
from going into the box, but she went, hard as it must have 
been to her, with the knowledge of the sins she has com 
mitted, and she has given her denial of her guilt with Sir 
Charles." 

There was a burst of generous and spontaneous applause 
in Court, when Rufus Isaacs concluded his appeal ; and by 
the end of his speech it was tolerably certain, whatever the 
finding of the jury on the entire case, that Mrs Sands would 
get her verdict. For, as Mr Lawson Walton remarked in 
the course of a five hours' speech, whose sustained animation 
and not infrequent eloquence won him the congratulation 
of the profession and the applause of the public, " the charge 
of adultery between Sir Charles and Mrs Sands was started 



THE HARTOPP DIVORCE CASE 109 

by an ex-inspector of Scotland Yard, and upon it the hail- 
mark of Scotland Yard is stamped." It had arisen merely 
because Lady Hartopp and Lord Cowley had "started 
looking about to see if they could not find out whether Sir 
Charles had ever been guilty of any infidelity towards his 
wife," and as such was scarcely worthy of consideration. 
Mr Lawson Walton's speech followed Mr Inderwick's 
for Lady Hartopp, Sir Edward Clarke having fallen ill in 
the course of the case. The audience had dwindled for Mr 
Inderwick's speech, for he spoke in a quick, soft voice which 
often dropped so low that he was scarcely audible even to 
the jury; ^his manner, too, with his arms tucked under his 
gown behind him and his eye-glasses aslant his nose, was 
rather like the layman's caricature of a typical lawyer. The 
Court was full, however, when Mr Justice Gorrell Barnes 
summed up on the thirteenth and last day of the trial. It 
was apparent that he did not really think the evidence 
amounted to very much, and was anxious for the jury to 
understand the social atmosphere in which the litigants 
moved; consequently he invited them, "who are probably 
mostly business men to step into the hunting-field " where 
" in a jolly state of sporting good fellowship Christian names 
and nicknames were flying about like brickbats among both 
peers and commoners." This complicated exercise took the 
jury perhaps pardonably three hours and a quarter, at 
the end of which time they returned a verdict that neither 
Lady Hartopp and Lord Cowley nor Mrs Sands and Sir 
Charles had committed adultery, nor had Sir Charles been 
guilty of cruelty. This complete retention of the matrimonial 
status quo was greeted with laughter, for it was not thought 
that the verdict was one for cheers. 

Parturiunt monies: nascetur ridiculm mus. Debrett had 
gone to law, and commerce had scorned the allegations j the 
result was " as you were," but the costs were huge. The case 
cost in the ne-ighbourhood of 15,000. Rufus Isaacs had 
secured an award of the costs of the cross-petition against 
Lady Hartopp. Sir Edward Clarke, as an ex-Solicitor- 
General, leading the way in fees with a retainer of 500 



no LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

guineas, and a refresher of 100 guineas a day, while the 
other silks had retainers of 150 guineas and substantial 
refreshers. For the moment the result of all this outlay to 
the parties concerned was nothing. But the Hartopp 
marriage was not destined to last, whatever twelve jurors 
might say, and in 1905 it was formally dissolved. Lady 
Hartopp then married Lord Cowley, but unfortunately he 
exhibited the matrimonial instability not unusual among the 
less serious of the leisured classes, and he appeared as co 
respondent in an undefended divorce petition brought by 
Major Buxton in January, 1913. As a consequence, Lady 
Hartopp divorced Lord Cowley in March, 1913, and subse 
quently married Major Duberly who was killed in action in 
the War, while Lord Cowley married Mrs Buxton. It is 
interesting to record that the counsel in Lady Hartopp's 
petition for the restitution of conjugal rights against Lord 
Cowley were Mr Barnard, K.C., who had been junior 
counsel to Mr Lawson Walton for Sir Charles Hartopp in 
the Hartopp divorce case, and Rufus Isaacs. But this Rufus 
Isaacs was Gerald Rufus Isaacs, then a young man of twenty- 
three starting his career at the Bar ; for Sir Rufus Isaacs by 
that time Was Attorney-General and leader of his profession, 
and could appear only for the Crown. 

Many comments may easily, and some legitimately, be 
made about the Hartopp divorce case. The most obvious is 
the platitude, freely repeated at the time by commentators 
on the case, that " useless " lives lead to this particular sort 
of frustration. There is no need to discuss this point here 
except to say that, generally speaking, the platitude, unlike 
so many, is true, and that an abundance of leisure, without 
depth of interest, may very easily promote restlessness, and 
craving for variety. To desert, however, the lofty plane of 
generalisation, it would seem most regrettable that Mrs 
Sands had to be dragged into other peoples' matrimonial 
squabbles, with which she had nothing whatever to do. Her 
position made her peculiarly vulnerable in such a case, and, 
therefore, as Rufus Isaacs pointed out, her action in coming 
forward and subjecting herself to cross-examination mainly 



THE TAFF VALE CASE in 

in the interests of Sir Charles and of justice for she was 
bound to be harmed herself by her appearance was one of 
high courage. Whatever else may be said about her, she 
was a woman whose bravery equalled her beauty j and her 
conduct and demeanour during a trial that must have been 
hateful to her, were worthy of both. It may safely be said 
that if every counsel could enter the Divorce Court in as 
good a cause as that in which Rufus Isaacs went to champion 
Mrs Sands, that Court would be free from the sordid 
elements with which it is so frequently associated. 

The t other case with which Rufus Isaacs was contempor 
aneously concerned, was of a very different order 5 for there 
were no sables or chiffon in Court to hear the great Taff Vale 
case, though its proceedings were watched with anxious 
interest by organised labour over the whole country. For it 
was this case which signalised the end of the " long practical 
immunity " from being sued which the Trade Unions had 
enjoyed since the Act of 1871, and which led up to the 
highly controversial Trades Disputes Act of 1 906. The case 
arose from the Taff Vale strike of August, 1900, which was 
a strike of railwaymen against the Taff Vale Railway Com 
pany j in consequence of it, the Company brought an action 
against the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, and 
asked for an injunction to restrain the Society from besetting 
the Great Western Railway. The Society, however, relying 
on the prevalent belief that a Trade Union could not be 
sued in law, took out a summons, asking that they should be 
dismissed from the action. There are, therefore, two parts 
of the Taff Vale case ; first, there was the preliminary legal 
argument to decide whether the action would lie in law 
(Rufus Isaacs did not appear in this), and then, when after 
consideration by three Courts it had been decided that it 
did, the case had to be argued on the facts. In this part of 
the case, Rufus Isaacs led for the Society, its trustees, and its 
general secretary, Richard Bell, M.P. for Derby. 

The argument of the Trade Unions on the point of law 
was briefly this. The only entities known to the Common 
Law of England, as being capable of suing or being sued, 



H2 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

are individuals and corporations, a Trade Union is neither 
a corporation nor an individual, nor yet is it a partnership 
between a number of individuals. The contention was, 
therefore, that there was no capacity in which a Trade Union 
could be sued. This argument, however, overlooked the fact 
that in spite of this, the legislature can give to an association 
of individuals, which is neither a corporation nor a partner 
ship, nor an individual, the capacity to own property and to 
act by agents; and that in such a case, in the absence of an 
express enactment to the contrary, there is necessarily a 
correlative liability, to the extent of the property, for the 
acts of the agents. Such a capacity to own property and to 
act by agents had been given to Trade Unions by the Acts 
of 1871 and 1876, and in the view of Mr Justice Farwell, 
who heard the case, there was nothing in those Acts to 
suggest that it was intended to exempt the Trade Unions 
from their proper correlative liability 5 for, in his own words, 
" it would require very clear and express words of enact 
ment to induce me to hold that the Legislature had in fact> 
legalised the existence of such irresponsible bodies with such 
wide capacities for evil." When the Society took the case 
to the Court of Appeal, however, the Master of the Rolls, 
A. L. Smith, took the opposite view: " when once one gets 
an entity, not known to the law," he said in his judgment, 
" and therefore incapable of being sued, in our judgment to 
enable such an entity to be sued an enactment must be found 
either express or implied enabling this to be done; and it is 
not correct to say that such an entity can be sued unless 
there be found an express enactment to the contrary." The 
judgment of Mr Justice Farwell was accordingly reversed, 
and the Company appealed; the case, therefore, like Allen 
v. Flood before it, went for hearing before the House of 
Lords. Here it was argued by Sir Edward Clarke and Mr 
Swinfen Eady for the Company, and a future Lord Chan 
cellor and a future Solicitor-General, in the persons of Mr 
Haldane and Mr S. T. Evans, for the Society. The upshot 
was that the House of Lords reversed the judgment of the 
Court of Appeal, and restored the original judgment of 



THE TAFF VALE CASE 113 

Mr Justice Farwell, taking the view that although a Trade 
Union was not a corporation, it could nevertheless, under 
the statutes, sue or be sued in its registered name. Or, as 
Lord Lindley put it, " the Act appears to me to indicate 
with sufficient clearness that the registered name is one which 
may be used to denote the Union as an unincorporated 
society in legal proceedings as well as for business and other 
purposes." 

Thus it was decided at any rate legally, for the decision 
brought an agitation which, as we shall see, was to lead to 
momentous conclusions that a Trade Union could be sued, 
and that its funds were liable for the payment of damages 
given against it 5 and the Taff Vale case was accordingly 
remitted to the King's Bench to be argued on the facts. The 
hearing before Mr Justice Wills and a special jury began on 
December 3rd, 1902 the day following Mrs Sands 5 inter 
vention in the Hartopp divorce case and this time Rufus 
Isaacs led Mr Evans and Mr Clement Edwards, while the 
Company was also strongly represented by Sir Edward 
Clarke, Mr Francis Williams, K.C., and Mr Eldon Bankes, 
K.C. The statements of claim and of defence were lengthy 
documents but the crux of the case was this: the Company 
claimed damages for the violent and unlawful acts by which 
they had suffered during the eleven days' strike, and for 
which they alleged that the Society of Railway Servants was 
responsible. The Society denied the alleged unlawful acts 
and damage, saying that if there were any, they were un 
authorised; further they denied taking any part in the dispute 
prior to the date of the strike (August I9th, 1900), and 
maintained that Bell had been sent down as a peacemaker, 
while on August igth the executive committee had con 
demned the conduct of the men, who had taken action 
without their consent and contrary to the rules of the Society. 
There was a further defence that one of the terms of the 
final settlement of the dispute had been that the Company 
should discontinue all legal proceedings, and that this action 
was clearly a breach of that agreement. Now if this last 
point of defence could be established, there was an end of 



ii4 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

the case; consequently at the end of the plaintiffs' case, 
Rufus Isaacs rose and submitted that on the evidence there 
was clearly an agreement that no action for damages should 
be brought against the Society and Bell. The terms of the 
agreement, he said, obviously included the Society j and, in 
addition, as many of the men were members of the Society, 
the agreement not to sue them made it impossible to sue 
the Society. For the House of Lords' decision had not made 
a Trade Union an entity like a corporation ; rather it was 
like a club or a firm, and since it is impossible to sue a firm 
consisting of A, B and C, if you had previously agreed not 
to sue B and C, it was clearly impossible to sue the Society, 
after an agreement had been made not to sue some of its 
members. The argument was ingenious and well sustained, 
but there was one definite flaw; the agreement had been 
made with the men, not with the Society, and, as the Society 
was not a party to the agreement, it could not in law take 
advantage of it. Mr Eldon Bankes seized upon this weak 
point, and it finally decided Mr Justice Wills, after listening 
to four hours 7 argument on the question, to overrule Rufus 
Isaacs' objection. But he had argued the point with a 
subtlety and persuasiveness, even though unsuccessfully, and 
his feat in sustaining such a technical argument is remarkable, 
when it is remembered that he came into Court to conduct 
it immediately on conclusion of his speech for Mrs Sands. 
With the collapse of this objection the best hope of the 
defence was gone, for the Society had assumed control of 
the strike when once it was started, and it was undeniable 
that in the course of it the " imported men," who were 
under contract " blacklegs," as the Trade Unionists called 
them had suffered interference and intimidation. But it 
was not the first unpromising case that Rufus Isaacs had 
encountered, and he fought gamely. He pointed out that 
the dimensions of the plaintiffs' case had shrunk ; it had 
at first been alleged that the events leading up to the strike 
had been the result of sham agitation, the men being goaded 
on by the officials of the Society for their own ends, and 
that, therefore, the strike, not being for the benefit of the 



THE TAFF VALE CASE 115 

men, ^was illegal. This case had fallen away, for it was 
not difficult to show that the men had grievances, and had 
themselves resolved to strike } indeed though the committee 
in London had passed a resolution to support them, the men 
had already declared a strike in ignorance of the fact. Bell 
had then been sent down to take charge until peace could 
be secured, and found the system of picketing (which in 
itself was legal) already in operation. He had done his 
best to prevent unlawful acts, and it was not right, Rufus 
Isaacs concluded, to saddle Bell or the Society with respon 
sibility for the acts of violence committed by pickets, whom 
they had not nominated, or by persons who had acted 
without instructions and outside their authority. 

But Rufus Isaacs' plea was of no avail. For after a long 
summing up, in which Mr Justice Wills said that he con 
sidered the evidence of conspiracy to molest and injure the 
plaintiffs by unlawful means to be absolutely overwhelming 
he also made the surprising but significant remark, " you 
cannot make a strike effective without doing more than is 
lawful "-the jury found for the plaintiffs on all counts. 
The question of damages was reserved, and it was ultimately 
settled by agreement between the parties that the defendants 
should pay 23,000 as a complete composition for damages 
and costs. 

^ The rather dry facts of the Taff Vale case may make it 
difficult at this distance of time, to realise the immense 
interest which it attracted and the great importance which 
attaches to it. It was watched with an anxious interest by 
all classes, that was sharply in contrast with the excitement 
aroused by the drama of the Hartopp case. The House of 
Lords 3 decision and the subsequent verdict profoundly 
stirred the whole community. To Trade Unionists it 
seemed that all the rights won by organised labour in long 
and careful years of struggle were in jeopardy; to others 
it seemed that a dangerous menace to the liberty of the 
subject was removed. For years political platforms echoed 
and re-echoed with the rights and wrongs of Taff Vale; 
and finally it was Taff Vale almost as much as Free Trade 



n 6 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

and " Chinese Slavery " that swept the country in the 
General Election of 1906. At first sight it might seem 
absurd to compare a case of such palpable importance with 
the Hartopp case, which it is so easy to dismiss as a trivial 
and inelegant incident in the lives of the idle rich ; but such 
criticism misses the point, for it is the wealth and position of 
the parties that is incidental. For cases like the Hartopp 
case are provoked by the tortuous complex of human 
emotions love, hatred, jealousy, suspicion that make up 
the inmost life of the individual , these things exist always, 
but it is only on such rare occasions that they are brought 
up for the gaze of the curious and the scrutiny of the 
theorist. It is good to be reminded of these things, for they 
are important ; and it is in the Hartopp and similar cases 
that we are so reminded. For they are concerned with the 
very heartbeats of the individual, and Taff Vale with the 
nerves and sinews which bind and enforce the framework of 
society. To attempt to adjudicate further between them 
would be to trespass into the debating ground of the philo 
sophers, and to try and resolve their doubts as to the com 
parative importance of the individual and of the community. 
Here it is perhaps more appropriate' to mark the versatility 
which allowed Rufus Isaacs to appear simultaneously and 
with such effect in two great cases, on such entirely different 
planes. There are some great advocates, among whom was 
Lord Carson, who will only appear in one case at a time (and 
it is a practice which has very much to recommend it) ; there 
are others, like Marshall Hall, who became so immersed in 
a great case that we cannot imagine them switching their 
minds daily from Mrs Sands to Taff Vale. Indeed, apart 
from the fact that there are very few advocates with an 
equipment that would secure them simultaneously briefs in 
a great Trade Union case and a sensational divorce case, 
there are still fewer who could achieve the necessary 
departmentalisation of mind to go from Court to Court, 
and achieve a success in both. But versatility of application 
departmentalisation of mind, and economy of energy were, 
as we have seen, foremost among Lord Reading's qualities -, 



THE TAFF VALE CASE 117 

and the Hartopp case and the Taff Vale case even though 
the facts were very favourable in the Hartopp case and he 
lost the Taff Vale, provide an excellent instance. Such 
qualities bring a rich reward that is not merely financial; 
for to Rufus Isaacs there fell in great degree that breadth 
of scene and wide range of activity which to greater or less 
extent are the lot of every barrister. The life of a great 
advocate is a social document, for he impinges in his work 
on public affairs, commercial affairs, and the domestic affairs 
of all classes of the community. And these cases added 
notable pages 5 for in one we can feel the throb of human 
emotion and in the other we can lay our finger on the pulse 
of national feeling. 



CHAPTER IX 

THE GORDON CUSTODY CASE 

THE year 1902 had gone down in a blaze of forensic 
glory. 1903 was to contain cases of almost equal 
note, but one of the first cases in which Rufus Isaacs 
was engaged in the New Year struck a lighter vein. This 
was the case in which he appeared for " Lord " George 
Sanger, the veteran circus proprietor, in the action of Sanger 
v. Harmsworth $ in this action "Lord" George claimed 
35,000, which he alleged that Harmsworth had promised 
him in connection with the promotion of a company to 
take over the circus business. Harmsworth denied the 
promise, and said that, if he had made it, there was no 
consideration. At the start of the case, which was tried 
before Mr Justice Ridley and a special jury, Mr Justice 
Ridley inquired: " Is he Lord George Sanger? " 

" Yes, my lord," replied Rufus Isaacs, " but I do not 
feel justified in conferring a peerage upon him." 

Sanger was then put in the box, where he was thoroughly 
at ease, though perhaps not quite in place, and surprised the 
Court by the quaintness of his remarks. He gave accounts 
of various interviews with Harmsworth. At one of these 
when he broached the subject of 35,000, Harmsworth 
" called up a waitress and changed the subject, which he 
was very clever at doing. I never met a man who could 
do it so well, and I am a little bit of a trickster myself." 
This disarming confession was followed up by the account 
of an interview at Nantwich, where he had spoken to the 
unfortunate Harmsworth " so straight " that the gentleman 
" had to ask his landlady to bring him some tea directly." 
On a subsequent occasion at the solicitor's office his anger at 
Harmsworth's reticence reacted on himself for, he said, " I 

118 



THE GORDON CUSTODY CASE 119 

was so vexed that I threw my hat on the ground and trampled 
it, as you may say, out of shape." For all his tantrums, 
however, " Lord " George was a nice old man, who had a 
deep sense of reverent affection for the monarchy, as shown 
in his evidence, " I said I did not like taking gifts, although 
I had accepted one from the dear old Queen ; " which 
displayed a nice sense of distinction. The case, however, 
only lasted two days, for Rufus Isaacs and Mr Shee, K.C., 
who led for Harmsworth, decided that, however amusing 
the continuance of the case might be to the Court, the 
interests of their clients would be better served by settling. 
Consequently, after a long consultation between counsel, an 
amicable settlement was arrived at, by which Harmsworth 
transferred to Sanger his 'shares in the Company and certain 
other shares in addition, while Rufus Isaacs, on behalf of 
the choleric but kind-hearted " lord " withdrew any im 
putations on Mr Harmsworth which Sanger might have 
made in the heat of the moment at their various meetings. 

Very different from the light-hearted affairs of the circus 
" peer " was the Gordon custody case, which Rufus Isaacs 
argued in the Divorce Court the following month. The 
Gordon case, which chiefly centred round the relations of 
two cousins, members of a noble house, with the same 
Woman, may fairly be termed an unpleasant case; but 
nevertheless it contained some most unusual features. It 
is part of the daily routine of the Divorce Court that two 
people should strenuously deny adultery j but it is a little 
unexpected to find two people just as strenuously insisting 
that they have committed adultery. Yet this is what 
happened in the case which is technically known as Gordon 
v. Gordon and Gordon. 

It all arose through an American lady, Miss Margaret 
Humble, who had come to England and married a man 
named Close. She was left a widow by him, however, and 
subsequently meeting Lord Granville Gordon, who was the 
brother and heir presumptive of the eleventh Marquess of 
Huntly and at the time a well set up military-looking man 
in the thirties, she became, according to the evidence of the 



120 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

parties at the trial, his mistress. In course of time she met 
Lord Granville's cousin, Christian Frederick Gordon (he 
was always known as Eric), who was ten years younger than 
his cousin and just starting his career on the Stock Exchange. 
He was not too young, however, to fall in love with 
Margaret Close, and he pressed his suit upon her. He was 
perhaps not so strong and positive a personality as his cousin, 
but lie too was tall, broad-shouldered and athletic in appear 
ance 5 and he had one great advantage over his cousin in 
that he was able to offer marriage to the lady, while Lord 
Granville, who was already married, could not. The lady, 
however, was not too willing, and it was not until Eric had 
proposed several times that she yielded and accepted him. 
The chief ground of her reluctance was her relationship 
with Lord Granville, which she was unwilling to give up. 
Eric, however, saw no reason why she should not, after 
marriage, be friendly with his cousin, and wrote to her, 
" Please don't worry yourself at anything Granny (Lord 
Granville) says, and don't make yourself unhappy about 
him. You shall see him as much as you like some day. I 
will come to tea to-morrow. Sleep well, darling, to-night. 
Yours always, .Eric." This letter was afterwards to be 
variously interpreted. Lord Granville and Margaret main 
tained that it showed that Eric was aware of their relation 
ship and was prepared to connive at its continuance, while 
Eric insisted that it showed no such thing, but was meant 
to convey that there was no occasion for interrupting an 
innocent friendship. 

The marriage took place on August 29th, 1894, and the 
married couple set up house. They lived in various places 
and stayed in still more, and always Lord Granville Gordon 
was a very frequent visitor, staying often for several days 
in mid-week, when Eric was away at the Stock Exchange 
all day. Such menages a trois are not unknown, and are 
very often entirely innocent, especially if the two men are 
friends or relatives with tastes in common, as in this case 5 
for the two cousins shot together and had once been to 
Norway for six weeks. But rumour nevertheless generally 



THE GORDON CUSTODY CASE 121 

gets busy, and this case was no exception ; in 1896 stories were 
in active circulation, but Eric, as he stated, decided that 
there could be no foundation in them, and that his wife and 
his cousin were above suspicion. Later, however, in 1899, 
when a daughter was born to Margaret, he was very annoyed 
when Lord Granville was admitted to her bedroom shortly 
after the event. But by this time all was clearly not well 
with the marriage, and when Lady Granville Gordon died 
in May, 1900, the position was simplified 5 for Lord Gran 
ville went on with Margaret, and Eric> who had previously 
refused a separation or divorce, obtained a decree nisi for the 
dissolution of his marriage on the ground of his wife's 
adultery with Lord Granville. This was on November 25th, 
1901, and on June 2nd of the following year the decree was 
made absolute. On August 5th of the same year Lord 
Granville married Margaret at the British Consulate at 
Dieppe j and in this unromantic spot the matter might thus 
have ended, with no more serious consequences than an 
estrangement between the cousins and the addition of a 
courtesy title to the style of the former Miss Humble. 

It might have; but in fact it did not. For, in granting the 
divorce, the Court gave Eric Gordon the custody of the 
child, and this did not suit the mother at all 5 consequently 
the child remained with the mother, who had every inten 
tion of keeping her, while Eric had every intention of 
enforcing his rights. Margaret Gordon's attitude can be seen 
from the letter which she wrote to Eric on July xyth, 1902, 
shortly before her marriage to Lord Granville, in which she 
said: " I swear baby is Granville's child and if this is not 
the truth, may she die to-day 5 it is absolutely the truth, 
and she is my whole world. If you take her, I shall not 
marry and it will probably soon kill me, which will be a 
good thing. For God's sake have a little mercy on me. If 
you insist, and I suppose you will, I will give her up, as 
unless I were married it would be so bad for her 5 but 
before you ruin two miserable lives, think well. I swear 
it was not your child 3 it was impossible." That these were 
her feelings on the subject is not surprising ; but her expec- 



122 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

tation of keeping the child in face of the Court's decree 
requires explanation. In point of fact, she insisted that 
there was an understanding between the parties that the 
decree giving custody of the child to Eric should be ^ treated 
as a mere formality, and the child should remain with her. 
And remain with her it did, at any rate long enough for her 
to get married to Lord Granville. In course of time, how 
ever, Eric made an application for the enforcement of the 
order of the Court, and the new Lady Granville Gordon 
encountered with an application to vary it. 

Such an application would normally be heard in Chambers, 
but it was in this instance the desire of all the parties to have 
the case argued in open Court. Consequently the hearing 
came on in the Divorce Court before Sir Francis Jeune, 
President of the Division, in February of 1903. Mr Henry 
Duke, K.C., and Mr Priestly appeared for the petitioner, 
Eric Gordon, and were opposed, on behalf of the Granville 
Gordons by Mr Bargrave Deane, K.C., Rufus Isaacs and 
and Mr Barnard. It will be noticed that all these counsel 
had taken part in the Hartopp case two months previously; 
but the Gordon case, though similar to the Hartopp case in 
that aristocratic names were involved, did not attract the 
same enormous measure of popular attention. Partly, no 
doubt, this was because the appetite for this kind^ of case 
had been sated 5 but the chief reason lay in the difference 
between the two cases. The Hartopp case had been strongly 
fought, but it was fought in an atmosphere of chivalry and 
good nature 5 the Gordon case was a struggle a Voutrance, 
red in tooth and claw. There was all the difference between 
Queensbury rules and all-in wrestling, between a joust and 
a cock-fight $ and, though a joust may be an attractive 
spectacle, there is something disgusting about the sight of 
a naked combat for possession. And the combat becomes 
no more edifying when its battle-ground is the adultery of 
persons no longer in the first flush of youth. But though 
the Gordon case was unpleasant, it was interesting and un 
usual. For the respondents could not rest their case ^solely 
on the alleged agreement not to ask for custody, since it 



THE GORDON CUSTODY CASE 123 

could not be maintained that there was any definite agree 
ment, which the Court must enforce. (It may be observed 
that there would be nothing improper in a petitioner for 
divorce not asking for the custody of a child, if he did not 
believe it to be his own, but if the wife agrees not to defend 
in return for a promise not to ask for custody, then that is 
collusion, and a divorce will not be granted.) Further, it is 
a rule of evidence that a parent may not give evidence which 
will bastardise her child. Consequently the respondents had 
to rely on yet another line of argument, which was that Eric 
Gordon had been aware of their adultery and connived at it, 
and was therefore a person unfit to have custody of the child. 
So it was that through a great part of the case the respondents 
were endeavouring to prove their own adultery to discredit 
not themselves, but the husband who to use the Restoration 
term had been cuckolded. 

The case for Lady Granville Gordon was opened by Mr 
Bargrave Deane for he was technically " leading " who 
outlined the respondents' view of the. case, alleging that Eric 
Gordon had been well aware of the relations between his 
wife and his cousin and urging that, if the agreement were 
reasonable and in the interests of the child, the Court ought 
to enforce it. The opening proceedings took up the whole 
of the first day of the trial, and it was the second day when 
Lady Granville Gordon entered the box to be examined by 
Rufus Isaacs. The Court turned curiously to see what 
manner of woman it was, who had captivated the two cousins 
and set a noble family by the ears; she turned out to be a 
handsome woman with a mature presence which indicated a 
decisive, if not a dominating, character. Her bearing in 
Court, both in Rufus Isaacs' examination-in-chief and sub 
sequently under Mr Duke's severe cross-examination, was 
composed to a degree} nor was her composure affected in the 
slightest by the spectacle of her present husband and her 
former husband seated in the front row of seats, the one 
stroking his long fair moustache and rivalling his wife's 
composure, the other biting his nails in his nervousness and 
rarely raising his eyes from the ground. Rufus Isaacs found 



124 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

her a good witness, although her frank confessions of 
adultery could not be expected to make a good impression 
on the Court. After she had told how she and Eric Gordon 
had always had separate rooms, while Lord Granville, when 
he stayed with them at Maidenhead, had a room communi 
cating with hers through a small sitting-room, which was 
known as "his Lordship's room," Rufus Isaacs put the 
question " Who is the father of the child?^ " _The question, 
however, was disallowed. In cross-examination, of course, 
Lady Granville Gordon could not expect to escape lightly 
in view of her own admissions, ,and Henry Duke soon 
pressed home his advantage. 

"Are you aware," he demanded, "that the marriage 
service contains cerfain vows entirely inconsistent with the 
continuance of your relations with Lord Granville Gordon?" 

Yes." 

" Did you intend to observe those vows, madam? " 

No, I did not." 

" Which oath has most weight with you your oath in 
this Court or the oath you took before Almighty God on 
that occasion? " 

The question was a clever one, rather of the " have you 
stopped beating your wife? " variety, for any answer would 
be damaging. However, only one reply was possible and 
she replied with firmness: 

" The oath I have taken in this Court." ^ 

She stood up to the whole cross-examination with the 
same obstinate composure, but it could not but be damaging, 
especially as it was a case in which the impression made upon 
the Court was of enormous importance. Indeed her very 
composure in discussing her irregularity of conduct, which 
would seem sinful to some and selfish to all, was in a sense 
unfortunate; for nobody would give the custody of a child 
to a woman whom they considered hard and abandoned, 
even if she was the mother. That sort of impression is 
extremely difficult to efface, and Rufus Isaacs' re-examina 
tion of her, which did not sufficiently concentrate on this 
aspect, could not remove it, although it was conducted a 



THE GORDON CUSTODY CASE 125 

week later at a time when Lady Granville Gordon was less 
composed and considerably less distinct owing to a heavy 
cold circumstances not altogether disadvantageous. There 
was an added difficulty, too, by this time in that the President 
had heard the evidence of Lady Granville Gordon's sister, 
Mrs Graves, and had taken a definitely unfavourable view 
of the respondents' case. For Mrs Graves had said, in 
examination by Mr Barnard, that she knew that Eric Gordon 
was aware that his wife had committed adultery, and that he 
always accepted the situation. To which Mr Duke said: 

"If you thought your sister was committing adultery, did 
you think it sisterly not to say anything about it? " 

" I did not think it my place to say anything," she replied. 
" I was on friendly terms with Mr Gordon. I said I was 
awfully sorry." 

This was too much for Sir Francis. 

" Said you were awfully sorry, indeed! Was that all 
you said? " 

" What else could I say? " 

" Say, madam ; I think I could tell you pretty clearly." 

And no doubt he could have done ; but what he would 
have said cannot be known, for he did not vouchsafe it to a 
curious Court. 

The same bad effect was created, after Lady Granville 
Gordon's re-examination, by her friend Mrs Nias, and, to a 
much less degree, by her maid. Her maid said that she did 
not speak about what was going on because she thought Mr 
Gordon knew about it, and because she did not want to lose 
her situation. This was perhaps forgiveable, but Sir Francis 
took a very poor view of Mrs Nias 5 attitude in the matter. 
Mrs Nias, examined by Rufus Isaacs, told how she was 
staying with the Gordons shortly before the birth of the 
child, and how Eric Gordon would leave her and Lord 
Granville to keep his wife company. She said, in answer to 
Mr Duke, that she would not have gone to the house if she 
had known that they had committed adultery, but that she 
very soon came to that conclusion, when she was there^ and 
also that Lord Granville was father of the child. 



126 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

" And believing that, madam," said Duke, " you con 
tinued to sit at the table daily, morning and evening, with 
Mr Gordon." 

" It was not for me to raise objections j I knew he knew." 

" That makes it fifty times worse," put in Sir Francis 
sternly. 

" Why," inquired Mr Duke, " did you not complain to 
the petitioner that decency must be observed in the house? " 

" I thought it was," replied Mrs Nias ingenuously. 

"What! " exclaimed the outraged President, and Mr 
Duke as a clever tactician knew any further questions must 
weaken the effect. 

" I will not trouble you further, madam," he said coldly. 

She was re-examined in the hopes of retrieving this 
disaster, and explained that the petitioner had told her, only 
a week before the birth of the child, that Lord Granville 
was the only person in whom his wife had any interest or 
affection. This, however, did not mollify Sir Francis. 

" But why remain in the house at all? " he insisted. 

" But, my Lord," she replied, " I live the other side of 
the Park." 

" Well, well," said Sir Francis and fell silent j for even 
Divorce Court Judges can sometimes be bewildered in the 
inconsequences of feminine logic. 

Mrs Nias was a bad witness 5 but even apart from that, it 
may legitimately be asked what purpose was served by 
calling these witnesses. The fact was that the respondent$ 
were in a dilemma. These people had to be called to say 
that in their belief Eric Gordon had known what was going 
on; but to do this, they had to admit that they, too, knew 
what was going on, and neither took action nor felt such 
conduct to be incompatible with the continuance of friendly 
relations with Eric Gordon or with the offenders. This 
difficulty ran through the whole case, and is apparent in the 
evidence of the Granville Gordons as well as in that of the 
lesser witnesses 5 it crystallised into this that, in order to 
establish their case, the witnesses for the respondents had 
to give evidence of conduct of a sort that enabled Mr Duke 



THE GORDON CUSTODY CASE 127 

to say that their evidence should be discredited. And 
ultimately they all succeeded in convincing the Court of 
their own wrongdoing, but not which was the essential 
point of Eric Gordon's knowledge of it. If there was to 
be any hope for the respondents therefore, it had to come 
from Rufus Isaacs' cross-examination of Eric Gordon, and 
he devoted himself with skill and patience to trying to make 
the witness admit knowledge of the love of his wife and his 
cousin. But Eric Gordon made a very good witness, 
especially in that he never tried to score off counsel and was 
not afraid of repeating his answers 5 for an attempt to make 
debating points in the> box is always fatal, unless undertaken 
by a supremely able person, and even then, as in the case of 
Wilde, it is generally a mistake in tactics. And as for 
repetition, it may be monotonous but it often carries with it 
the conviction of truth. And so Rufus Isaacs, employing 
now the fast deliveries of shock tactics and now the slows of 
wily indirectness, met always the patient stonewalling 
defence which, unlike the cuts and drives of a more spirited 
performer, never exposed his citadel. 

" Did it not occur to you," asked Rufus Isaacs, " that in 
the interests of your wife's reputation it was desirable that 
his visits should be less frequent? " 

" No, I had such faith and trust in my wife and him that 
it did not." 

" You might be satisfied, but a censorious world would 
not. You were anxious for your wife's reputation but you 
did not forbid him the house, although his own wife was 
quarrelling with him about your wife? " 

" It never occurred to me, but I see now it would have 
been wiser if I had done so." 

It is always good tactics to confess a mistake as long as 
it is a miscalculation and not an ethical mistake in the box, 
for nothing pleases a jury more than to reflect how much 
better they would have handled the situation themselves. 

Later Rufus Isaacs asked: 

" Would it have aroused any suspicion in your mind if he 
had come to live in your house? " 



128 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

" Not if I had asked him to do so," was the reply. 
^ " Would it not have seemed unnatural for you to ask 
him, after all the rumours you had heard? " 

" No, I trusted him as a cousin and a friend." 

" You say there was always another guest in the house 
when he visited you. Was this in order to play propriety? " 

" Certainly not." 

Rufus Isaacs extorted the admission that the witness was 
aware in 1896 that Lord Granville was not living with his 
wife, who was a jealous woman. 

" Had she," he asked, " any other cause for jealousy 
apart from your wife? " 

" No, not to my knowledge." 

" Then, the sole cause of her jealousy being your wife, 
you did not consider it undesirable that he should visit at 
your house? " 

As to the peculiar geographical arrangement of the 
menage a trois, Rufus Isaacs said: 

"If an intimacy were in progress unknown to you, were 
you not put to sleep in the room in which you were most 
unlikely to discover what was going on? " 

" I do not think so." 

" While the respondent and co-respondent occupied rooms 
most suitable for their purpose? Was not the room he 
occupied the one you, as the lady's husband, should have 
occupied instead of being given over to a stranger? " 

" I did not consider him a stranger." 

" I agree," said Rufus Isaacs drily, and there was one of 
the few laughs that this case provoked. 

But Eric Gordon had emerged very well. He had taken 
his line and not deviated from it; it was a popular line, too, 
for he could always fall back on the great trust which he had 
placed in his wife and his cousin. And, since it was an age 
which had a great respect for property, the cuckold was not 
ridiculed, as in an earlier age, but was panoplied in the 
protective conscience of the community. Consequently it 
did not require the applause which greeted Henry Duke's 
speech in which he maintained strongly that custody should 



THE GORDON CUSTODY CASE 129 

be given to his client, who would hardly be anxious to main 
tain the child if he did not believe it to be his own, while it 
was almost unheard of to give custody to a guilty parent to 
show which was the popular side. 

The task of replying and saying the final word for Lady 
Granville Gordon was entrusted to Rufus Isaacs, whose 
dexterous eloquence was peculiarly fitted for putting a 
difficult and unpopular case in the best light But before 
Rufus Isaacs made his speech there was a dramatic interlude, 
for the Daily Mail announced that Lady Granville Gordon 
had left for the Continent, taking the child with her 5 the 
report, which had been confirmed by Lord Granville Gordon 
under a misapprehension as to the bona fides of the Daily 
Mail representative, was erroneous or, as it turned out, 
premature. Lady Granville Gordon's solicitors made in 
quiries and she replied from 26 Hereford Square, on March 
2nd: 

DEAR MR UPTON, 

It is absolutely untrue that I have left town, or mean to 
until the case is over, and I think it most important that Mr 
Isaacs should make his speech, and it is also my intention to 
hear it. 

Yours, 

MARGARET GRANVILLE GORDON. 

And so Margaret Gordon was in Court to hear Rufus 
Isaacs 3 speech, to which she listened with strained attention, 
and was visibly moved by the eloquence of his pleading. A 
much more important spectator, whose presence was noted 
with equal interest by the crowded Court which had come to 
hear the speech, was Israel Zangwill, the writer, who 
listened closely as Rufus Isaacs put his case. His main line 
of argument was that the practice by which the Courts had 
for some years been accustomed to deal with these cases in 
a penal light with regard to the guilty party was exploded 
doctrine ; the true guiding principle was that there neither 
was nor could be any hard and fast rule in such cases, but 



130 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

that in all cases it was the interest of the children which 
must be looked to. The case of Witt v. Witt had given a 
precedent for the giving of custody by the Court to a guilty 
husband, and, though there was no case in which custody 
had gone to a guilty wife, there was no principle of law 
against it. In this case the child was in ailing health and 
should be with its mother, who indeed had had reason to 
believe that she was to have the custody. " I do not 
contend," he said, " that there was any agreement as to 
custody j but the respondent was undoubtedly under the 
impression that there was one, and she certainly understood 
that the asking for the custody at the trial was a mere formal 
demand." Further there was strong reason to believe that 
Eric Gordon had known of the relations between his wife 
and his cousin. How could it be supposed that he, a young 
man of twenty-eight and a man of the world, was ignorant? 
He knew that Lady Granville Gordon was complaining of 
her husband's attention to Margaret, and yet he allowed 
them to spend hours and days together alone in each other's 
company, while he, poor credulous man, was away on the 
Stock Exchange. If all these facts had come out at the 
divorce trial, the petitioner would never have been able to 
secure his divorce, and so could not have deprived the 
mother of her child. 

It was a well-balanced and persuasive argument, the more 
so because he made no attempt to whitewash his client 5 but 
there was no reason, merely because her conduct had not 
been impeccable, why her evidence should be dismissed with 
a wave of the hand, as Mr Duke had been inclined to do. 
And if her evidence was right, and it was in the interest of 
the child, then there was a very fair case for granting the 
custody to her. But it could not be proved that Eric Gordon 
was away from his wife at the time of conception, nor could 
the respondent point to any one instance where he must have 
known of the relations between her and Lord Granville 5 and 
in law there is a presumption of legitimacy of a child born 
in wedlock, which can only be rebutted by conclusive 
evidence and not by the mere balance of probabilities. 



THE GORDON CUSTODY CASE 131 

Consequently Sir Francis in a three hour judgment in the 
course of which he echoed Mr Duke's query: why should 
the petitioner want the custody of the child if he did not 
believe in his paternity? said that, if he believed that Eric 
Gordon had connived at adultery, nothing would persuade 
him to give him custody, but that it was a long step from 
saying that he definitely did know; and he awarded the 
custody of the child to him. 

There the matter might have been expected to end; but 
such calculation would leave out of account Lady Granville 
Gordon, who was a woman of determination. The order of 
the Court had stated that the child should be given into the 
father's custody at noon on Wednesday, March nth, but 
when Colonel Gordon this was Eric's father, for Eric had 
hurt himself when riding and a nurse called at two o'clock, 
they found that the birds had flown. For Lady Granville 
Gordon had decided to leave nothing to chance, and fore 
stalled the judgment of the Court by removing her child. 
On the Sunday which intervened between Rufus Isaacs' 
speech and judgment, the Empire Towing Company of 
Gravesend, in which Lady Granville Gordon had shares, 
received a telephone call from London booking a tug; the 
manager was informed that the " name did not matter," as 
the party would pay cash. Accordingly the steam-tug 
Rescue went from Gravesend to Tilbury and there received 
on board four women and two children; two of the women 
were landed at Southend, and the tug proceeded to Dun 
kirk. On landing at Dunkirk, one of the women said to 
the captain of the tug, " You may like to know that this 
is Lady Granville Gordon's child." In point of fact the 
captain was not very interested, for with the sturdy indiffer 
ence of the busy man he had not even heard of the case. 
But, whatever the captain's feeling, there were people in 
London, more important than he, who were very interested, 
and Lord Granville who had stayed behind to " face the 
music " " there'll be a row and I had better be here to 
see the whole thing through " was powerless to prevent 
the law being set into operation. Mr Priestly made applica- 



132 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

tion for a writ of attachment and committal against Lady 
Granville Gordon, and it was granted 5 and determined 
woman as she was, she had now conjured up forces too 
strong for her. As she had been defeated in law, so she 
was defeated in action. 

It was perhaps appropriate that " one of the bitterest and 
most unpleasant controversies in the annals of the Divorce 
Courts " should thus have been fought to the last ditch. 
That the case had an unpleasant flavour is undeniable ; but 
then the contemplation of human nature in the raw is rarely 
aesthetically satisfactory, except perhaps to those with very 
strong stomachs. In the struggle in the Courts the mask of 
civilisation is apt to fall, and motives and actions are seen in 
the crudity which ordinarily it is considered polite to camou 
flage. However this may be, the Courts do not choose, nor 
do they create, the circumstances which lead people to seek 
their intervention ; the lawyer must take people as he finds 
them; he cannot create his own raw material. Nevertheless 
the case was extremely interesting, and not least significant 
was Rufus Isaacs' appeal for the discontinuance of what was 
virtually an automatic penal system in these cases, and for 
the substitution of the higher criterion of the child's own 
welfare. 



CHAPTER X 

RISE AND FALL OF WHITTAKER WRIGHT 

^ I ^HE Whittaker Wright case is perhaps the most 
I famous of those trials, which provide a dramatic and 
-* often a tragic climax to a romantic career. There 
have been other cases not dissimilar, in which there has been 
enormous speculation and gigantic frauds alleged 5 there 
have been the cases of Jabez Balfour, of Horatio Bottomley 
and of Hatry. They have all been cases where a famous 
figure, looked up to with admiration and often with envy, 
has become almost overnight an object of the execration of 
those who lay the cause of their ruin at his door 5 but none 
has ever touched the popular imagination quite like 
Whittaker Wright. No one gave so huge and vivid an 
impression of rugged force and financial genius 5 no one was 
so completely the autocrat in the companies in which he was 
concerned j no one was so lavish in the ostentation which 
advertised his great position. These qualities place him in 
a unique position ; and probably there are few indeed who 
have not heard of the rise and fall of Whittaker Wright. 
But though all know the circumstances of his career and the 
fact of his conviction, comparatively few know the nature of 
his offence and still fewer could understand the intricate 
manipulations of which it was composed. In point of fact 
he was one of that not uncommon type, which indulges in 
financial jugglery in order to tide over a bad period. Very 
few do succeed in tiding over their bad period; they are 
caught somewhere in mid-journey through the maelstrom, 
and when their tactics have been on the Napoleonic scale, 
the crash is immense. Whether men with financial genius 
could get through by these methods is open to doubt, but as 
the law at present operates they are bound to come into 

133 



134 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

conflict with those restrictions on the laissez-faire of finance, 
which have been imposed by society for the protection of 
those less talented. So it was with Whittaker Wright, for 
his tactics brought him to disaster, and like so many clever 
men he had to pay the penalty for his ambitious strategy; 
but though he paid the supreme penalty, he paid it as a 
voluntary sacrifice and had the satisfaction of cheating Fate 
at the last. 

Whittaker Wright was by origin a Northcountryman, and 
to the end his voice retained its rough Northumbrian burr, 
and his personality its rugged North-country power. The 
age of twenty-one found him with no capital, save that of 
his abilities and his education, and like his great, antagonist 
in the last struggle, his thoughts turned to America ; unlike 
Rufus Isaacs, however, he went aftd prospered. He had an 
expert knowledge of mining chemistry, and in the United 
States became an assayer, and speculated on a small scale in 
mining shares. He saved and finally was able to buy a 
mining claim for 100 and to sell it at a profit, which 
allowed him to go on repeating the operation on an 
increasing scale, until at the end of ten years he had amassed 
a fortune of 200,000 on the New York Stock Exchange. 
In 1889 he returned to England, having accomplished the 
Whittingtonian feat, so applauded by right-thinking people 
in Victorian times. But Whittaker Wright did not become 
Lord Mayor of London; he had other ambitions. Very 
soon he was engaged in immense transactions, which were 
still further increased by the Westralian gold boom. This 
enabled him to float the West Australian Exploration and 
Finance Company and the original Globe or to give it its 
full title, the London and Globe Finance Corporation with 
a capital of 200,000 each 5 later he floated the Lake View 
Consols, Paddington Consols and other concerns, while in 
1897 he amalgamated the two original companies into a 
single concern with a capital of 2,000,000. This concern 
was the new Globe, and had ramifications in Australia, 
British Columbia, the Yukon and the Pacific. The extent 
of its interests can best be gauged by the following list: 



FALL OF WHITTAKER WRIGHT 135 



Date of floating. 

December, 1897 
February, 1898 
November, 1899 
August, 1899 
November, 1899 
November, 1900 

November, 1900 



Name. 

British American 
Standard . 
Le Roi Mines 
Caledonian Copper 
Nickel Corporation 
Baker Street and 

Waterloo Railway 
Loddon Valley Gold Fields 



Capitalisation. 

1,500,000 
. 1,500,000 
. 1,000,000 
750,000 
750,000 

. 2,385,000 
750,000 



The prestige of W.W., as he came to be known in the 
City, was enormous. As Sir Edward Parry has said, he was 
looked upon as a sort of Midas, who had only to touch a 
scheme to turn it into gold. His shares were taken up 
with alacrity and his invitations to subscribe responded to 
with enthusiasm; his actions were watched and his example 
followed; his advice was besought and his nod attended to. 
Nor did social eminence lag behind financial prosperity (it 
rarely does). He had all the trappings of success; a house 
in Park Lane next to Londonderry House, a marvellous 
country seat at Lea Park near Godalming, a racing-yacht 
Sybarite, which had defeated the Kaiser's champion Meteor. 
His houses were famous for their Louis XV and Louis XVI 
furniture, and in the drawing-room at Park Lane there was 
a replica, made at great expense, of the Cabinet des Roisot 
Louis XV, the original of which is in the Louvre, ine 
house at Lea Park was even more magnificent, and armies 
of workmen were constantly at work upon it giving 
expression to his ideas. There were fishing-ponds and a 
billiard-room under the lake; there was a marble fountain 
transported from Italy, on which the figure of Neptune was 
replaced by a mermaid struggling with an octopus, tor this 
improbable combat was apparently more to his taste. But 
W.W. was not content with transplanting works of art; , he 
usurped the prerogative of the deity and changed the face 
of nature, transplanting mountains and orchards, if their 
position did not please him. As for the stables, which were 



136 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

built to hold fifty horses, a contemporary account may be 
quoted: " The ceilings are of moulded plaster, showing, in 
fine deep relief, scenes of the chase. Each horse has over 
his stall a separate picture, and from end to end the complete 
story of the hunt is depicted. Over one set of stalls harriers 
are represented and over the other a fox-hunt. Behind the 
horses the space allowed is very wide and is furnished all 
along with old oak settees upholstered in leather on which 
princes might recline to admire the horses or the fittings, 
the whole of which in the stable are of polished gun-metal. 
The effect is gorgeous." It must have been. 

But uneasy is the head that wears a crown even if it is 
only a tinsel one. And in spite of his prestige and his 
palaces, in spite even of the fact that he had as Chairman of 
the Globe, Lord Dufferin, ex- Viceroy, ex-Ambassador, ex- 
Governor-General, W.W/s position was not spared from 
attack. Nor indeed, behind the imposing fagade, was it 
impregnable; for the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway 
project absorbed his ready capital, and he had on that account 
to borrow for his market operations. Aided by this and the 
depreciation of values after the Transvaal War, the " bears " 
attacked with determination, and battle was joined. To 
counter their activities W.W. determined on a "million 
syndicate, " which was to " bull " Lake Views or so he 
alleged, for the members of the syndicate, whom he accused 
of betraying him by selling below the agreed price, denied 
that there was any "bull" syndicate, and said that they 
merely lent money to him against collateral securities. Be 
that as it may, the great corporation failed. On December 
29th, 1900, the Globe failed to meet? its obligations at the 
Stock Exchange settlement; Lake Views fell from 13 to 
8^ that day, and a total eclipse followed. The crash was 
enormous; the Standard and the British America came down 
with the, Globe, involving all sorts of others in their fall, 
and thirty members of the stock exchange were hammered 
in a single transaction. Panic, excitement, and indignation 
swelled into a frenzy; was it possible that so rich and well- 
thought-of a man could really have had feet of clay? But, 



FALL OF WHITTAKER WRIGHT 137 

if so, there were twenty thousand stockbrokers would know 
the reason why. 

Lord Dufferin and the directors met the shareholders on 
January 9th, 1901, when Lord Dufferin frankly admitted 
that he knew little about what was going on, and indeed 
little about finance at all. The explanation, therefore, was 
left to W.W., who was in fact the autocrat of the company; 
but, astute as he was, and practised in the art of conciliating 
angry shareholders, his words had lost their glamour and 
he failed to carry the meeting in support of his proposed 
scheme of reconstruction. A proposal for voluntary liquida 
tion was, therefore, accepted, knd for' it ultimately a com 
pulsory winding-up was substituted. The long and tedious 
process of official liquidation, in which Rufus Isaacs appeared 
and Whittaker Wright was subjected to examination and 
cross-examination, made it appear not improbable that 
Whittaker Wright had issued false balance-sheets, and for 
this the general feeling was that he should be prosecuted. 
But could a prosecution in law be launched with any reason 
able prospects of success? The Attorney-General, Sir 
Robert Finlay, evidently thought not, for he declined to 
authorise a prosecution by the Director of Public Prosecu 
tions. This decision aroused much criticism, which found 
expression in an amendment to the Address, moved in the 
House of Commons by George Lambert, M.P., on February 
1 9th, 1903, expressing regret that no prosecution had been 
instituted against the directors of the Globe. In the course 
of his speech Mr Lambert referred to the "aristocratic 
directorate of the Globe, and claimed that what is sauce for 
Jabez Balfour the middle-class c nonconformist swindler 3 
must be sauce for the Globe." This view won a certain 
amount of support from the Liberal rank and file, but 
Liberal lawyers like Henry Duke and Sir Robert Reid, 
afterwards Lord Chancellor as Lord Lpreburn, endorsed 
Sir Robert Finlay's action, while the Solicitor-General said: 
" It is said that Mr Whittaker Wright published a false 
balance-sheet. I believe that he did. I think that it is an 
admitted fact that this was donej but will anyone get up and 



138 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

say that a man can be prosecuted because he publishes a false 
balance-sheet? " 

The answer was by inference in the negative, but this 
view of the law was not taken by everybody. It was not 
taken, for instance, by Mr John Flower and certain other 
brokers, who had suffered in the crash ; they appeared before 
Mr Justice Buckley, a Chancery judge and a great authority 
on Company Law, and asked him to sanction a prosecution 
to be paid for out of the remaining assets of the corporation. 
In answer to the suit, in which Rufus Isaacs played the 
virtually impartial and spectatorial role of counsel for the 
Official Receiver, Mr Justice Buckley gave a judgment, 
sanctioning a prosecution, for, without in any way prejudic 
ing the issue he gave it as his opinion that the facts were 
such that a prosecution would lie. But the long-awaited 
trial was to be still further postponed, for Whittaker Wright 
was a man of decision; he left the country, travelled through 
France under an assumed name, and reached America. Here 
he was recognised, and extradition proceedings were started; 
but technical difficulties arose, owing to W.W.'s residence 
in the United States, and it was not until August that Mr 
Flower and his associates triumphantly haled him back to 
England. Finally the trial came on in January 1904 
three years after the crash and Rufus Isaacs, who had 
been briefed by the private prosecution to undertake the 
task from which the Attorney had shrunk, found himself 
face to face with the ablest financier of the day. 

Whittaker Wright was accused, in lay parlance, of being 
a swindler. But this is scarcely a sufficient key to a case 
which, as Rufus Isaacs rightly said, was one " of as great 
complexity as has perhaps ever been presented." There 
were in point of fact twenty-six counts in the indictment, 
and when it was suggested that an abstract of them should 
be put before the jury so that they could find a separate 
verdict on each count, Mr Justice Bigham remarked: " I 
might as well give the jury Archbold's Criminal Pleading 
or the Encyclopaedia Britannica." But if we follow Rufus 
Isaacs' advice to the jury to " concentrate your attention on 



FALL OF WHITTAKER WRIGHT 139 

the salient points of the case and not allow yourselves to be 
diverted into the bye-paths of finance/' it can be made clear 
what Whittaker Wright's offence was. He was charged 
under sections 83 and 84 of the Larceny Act of 1861, and 
the charges referred to the balance-sheets of 1899 and of 
1900, which he was alleged to have published witlTarlaiow- 
ledge of their falsity and with intent to deceive and defraud 
the shareholders. What he had done was to deceive the 
shareholders into the belief that the companies were in a 
flourishing condition, whereas in reality they were on the 
verge of collapse, at the same time disembarrassing himself 
of his own shares by the end of 1900 he had got rid of 
all except 2,500 in the Globe. His method was to create 
bogus assets and, although involving the most intricate 
manipulations of figures, was in conception simple ; it 
depended on his position as autocrat of so many companies, 
for all his companies were really just Whittaker Wright. 
All that he needed to do, therefore, was to make a huge 
transference of assets from, say, the Standard to the Globe, 
when the Globe balance-sheet was to be made, and to 
transfer them back again to the Standard for inclusion in its 
balance-sheet. Actually, of course, nothing changed hands 
at all; it was merely W.W. as managing director of one 
company making adjustments with W.W. as managing 
director of the other. 

It was this charge which Rufus Isaacs had to substantiate 
in detail when the trial opened before Mr Justice Bigham 
on January nth, 1904. The atmosphere was not at all 
like that of an ordinary criminal trial, for the case was tried, 
not at the Old Bailey, but in the King's Bench Division in 
the Law Courts a circumstance which was to have an 
amazing and unforeseen result in order to secure the 
advantage of a special jury. Consequently Whittaker 
Wright was spared the indignity of the dock, and sat like an 
ordinary civil litigant in the well of the Court with- his 
advisers, a massive figure in all the dignity of flowing frock- 
coat, high collar, and the imperial beard which he had lately 
grown. Sitting by him were his counsel, Mr Lawson Walton 



LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

who was thus matched with his former pupil Mr R. D. 
Muir and Mr Felix Cassel, while Mr Rufus Isaacs had 
supporting him, Mr Horace Avory, K.C., Mr Guy Stephen- 
son, and Mr G. A. H. Branson, two of whom afterwards 
became High Court Judges. Despite the obscurities and 
technicalities of the financial background of the case, the 
public interest was immense and the Court always crowded, 
for behind the mass of figures was the sense of drama and 
the presence of great events. 

Rufus Isacs opened the case for the prosecution in a five- 
hour speech, a lucid, unimpassioned survey, emphasising 
W.W.'s autocratic control and his divestment of his shares. 
He pointed out clearly, too, just what items in the two 
balance-sheets the prosecution challenged. In the 1899 
balance-sheet there was the supposed cash balance at the 
Bank of 534,455, which really represented only the result 
of a paper transaction, the transference of liability from one 
company to another 5 the report, however, had stated, after 
mentioning the extent of the balance, that " the aim of the 
directors during the past year has been to consolidate and 
strengthen the position of the company, and one result of 
this policy may be seen in the fact that more than the whole 
amount to the credit of the profit and loss is in cash, a much 
stronger position than existed last year." This statement, 
in consideration of the real nature of the " cash balance " 
was, in Rufus Isaacs' contention, a deliberate attempt to 
misrepresent the position of the company to its shareholders. 
With regard to the 1900 balance-sheets, Rufus Isaacs 
indicated four items, which the prosecution did not accept 
as being a true account of the position. There was the list 
of shares put at 2,332,632, os. id. the penny being, as 
Rufus Isaacs observed, " quite an artistic touch ; " then there 
was the omission from the debit side of the balance-sheet 
of liabilities amounting to 1,603,000, which had been in 
formally transferred to the Standard and British American 
Corporation in the way mentioned above. There were in 
addition an alleged profit of nearly half-a-million, which 
was obtained by the conversion of certain shares into other 



FALL OF WHITTAKER WRIGHT 141 

shares of a higher value, and an item of 113,671, 95. lod. 
cash in the Bank, which had in reality accrued from loans 
from the bankers. 

On the second day of the trial the evidence for the prose 
cution began, and continued for five days. It was for the 
most part intricate stuff and made dull listening. But an 
acute observer watching Rufus Isaacs conduct his examina 
tion of thp accounts and officials from the Bankruptcy 
Department could see those special qualities in him which 
peculiarly fitted him for such a case $ the great financial 
acumen, which enabled him to follow the most obscure and 
intricate details with ease, the imperturbability which 
allowed him to steer his way to his desired end, unruffled 
through the multitude of suggestions from his own side and 
the interruptions from the Bench and opposing counsel, 
which rained upon him during this part of the case, and the 
economy of energy which enabled him to maintain an 
undiminished keenness of mind through the duration of an 
exceptionally wearing case. An advocate less versed in 
financial affairs could not have found his way with sure 
enough step through the maze of figures and manipulations ; 
an advocate more temperamental would certainly have given 
way to irritation. But self-discipline, calmness, and clarity of 
mind were always foremost in Rufus Isaacs' armoury of 
qualities 3 and in cases like the Whittaker Wright case tHey 
can succeed where mere eloquence would be helpless. 

On the seventh day of the trial, Tuesday of the second 
week, Whittaker Wright entered the box. He had begun 
to show signs of strain during the lengthy hearing of the 
evidence for the prosecution, but the week-end's rest had 
revived him, and his face had once more the ruddy glow 
of self-confidence. As Rufus Isaacs watched him, leaning 
forward with his arms on the box he had declined the 
offer of a seat and answering Lawson Walton's questions 
with an ease and rapidity which displayed his entire mastery 
of his subject, he realised that he would be a difficult 
opponent in cross-examination, for any slips or hesitancy on 
his part would afford a contemptuous triumph to the infall- 



142 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

ible W.W. Indeed as question and answer passed between 
them, W.W. leaning forward almost confidentially and 
Lawson Walton with his air of quiet, unhurried certainty, 
it seemed almost as if the old infallibility had never been 
challenged 5 for it appeared not like an examination in Court, 
but like a conversation between two experienced business 
men in which W.W. was telling Lawson Walton just what 
had happened, and what stupid misinterpretations had been 
made by uninformed persons. There was nothing wrong 
with the 1899 balance-sheet ; it was merely that the Globe 
wanted to convert their assets into cash for the end of the 
financial year and had done so by payments made by the 
subsidiary companies in respect of transactions, " not one of 
which were illegitimate, but happened every fortnight in 
the City." And as to the omission of the liabilities to 
stockbrokers amounting to 1,603,000 in the 1900 balance- 
sheet, that was not to deceive the shareholders 5 far from it 
it was, did they but know it, to save the poor creatures 
from the " bears " who were trying to wreck the Globe. 

It was this atmosphere which Rufus Isaacs had to destroy 5 
the atmosphere of the benevolent autocrat, whose good 
intentions had been misunderstood by persons not in a 
position to judge, and whose course of conduct, if not 
interrupted, would have led to an honourable salvation for 
all. And this could only be done by a cross-examination, 
which would leave no doubt of the facts; W.W. must be 
convicted out of his own mouth. With so formidable an 
antagonist as Whittaker Wright the task could not but be 
long and difficult, and the cross-examination, which started 
as soon as Lawson Walton's examination was concluded on 
the seventh day of the trial, continued until 3.15 in the 
afternoon of the ninth day. The struggle was a true Homeric 
contest; for, though there Was no spear save that of interro 
gation and no shield save that of explanation, there were 
the endurance, the resource and the determination, which 
are at once the product and the condition of heroic struggle, 

Rufus Isaacs' first questions concerned W.W.'s leaving 
the country after Lambert's motion in the House of Com- 



FALL OF WHITTAKER WRIGHT 143 

mons. He then turned to the inter-company payments: 

" You received/' he said, " all this money as chairman 
of one company from yourself as chairman of another? " 

" I do not like that way of putting it. The money was 
paid by one company to the other." 

" On September 3Oth," Mr Justice Bigham explained, 
" you, as the Globe, sold 72,000 of nickel shares to the 
Standard. Two 'months afterwards, you, as the Standard, 
bought back the same shares at 80,000. The effect was 
that you borrowed 72,000 from the Standard for two 
months. " 

W.W. was then questioned as to the balance-sheet and 
directors' report of 1899, but he remained stubborn. " You 
will never get me to the crack of doom," he said, " to admit 
that there is anything the matter with the 1899 balance- 
sheet." Rufus Isaacs, however, pressed him as to whether 
he thought the shareholders would be more impressed with 
the statement that the directors intended to make the com 
pany a ten per cent, investment company when they saw that 
there was a large balance in cash; to which W.W. replied 
that he was not responsible for what inferences they might 
draw, and added, " it is the sort of statement ninety-nine 
chairmen out of a hundred would make at a shareholders' 
meeting." Next day Rufus Isaacs returned to the attack, 
and slowly, bit by bit, the financier was forced to admit to 
having made "slips" on two occasions, when he was 
anxious to conceal the true state of affairs. It had been a 
" slip," for instance, when in his letter to Lord Dufferin he 
had said that the amount of profit shown was after allowing 
for a deduction of 500,000 from the market value of the 
shares j he should have said " cost or par value." Similarly 
it had been a " slip of the tongue " when he had said at the 
meeting that if the market value was less than the cost, the 
shares were marked down to market value. At last, stung 
by the searching questions which were compelling these 
admissions, W.W. exclaimed in a rare burst of indignation 
for his manner in the box was quiet, with never a trace 
of anger or hostility that counsel would like him to be 



144 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

chairman, secretary, and everything in the company. " No," 
answered Rufus Isaacs, amid laughter, " I think you were 
quite enough." 

It was clear as the day wore on that Rufus Isaacs was 
gaining. Hour after hour the deep guttural Northumbrian 
burr replied to the melodious voice with the clear ring and 
faultless intonation ; and hour after hour the closely-packed 
spectators turned from the lean, courteous figure in the front 
row to the stocky, self-confident figure in the box, not under 
standing all the figures and details which were the ammuni 
tion of this combat, but realising that these two men were 
gladiators of no mean order, locked, for all the courtesy of 
combat, in the death-throe of an epic struggle. For five 
hours Whittaker Wright stood there, facing the calm, 
relentless, dispassionate interrogation, and then utterly 
weary he sank into the seat which had been offered him 
from the start, and remained there, huddled and exhausted. 
But his brain had lost none of its keenness and the great 
duel went on; the Whittaker Wrights of the world do not 
give a walk-over, nor do they ask for quarter. 

Rufus Isaacs was asking about the loss of the 750,000 
of Lake Views in 1900. 

" Did you want to disclose the true state of affairs? " 

" Not with regard to every operation of the market." 

" Did you wish to keep from the meeting the loss of 
750,000 on Lake Views? " 

" No, it was well-known." 

" There was no reference to that loss at the meeting of 
1900? " 

" It did appear in the figures given." 

But finally Whittaker Wright was forced to admit that 
the loss was nowhere specifically referred to. And again, 
after searching questions, he had to admit, though only with 
considerable hesitation, that there would have been about 
1,600,000 assets in December of 1900, which could have 
made no appearance on September 3Oth for W.W. had 
taken advantage of the fact that in law he could postpone 
the issue of the balance-sheet from September to December. 



FALL OF WHITTAKER WRIGHT 14.5 

The second day had left Rufus Isaacs leading stronglys 
fortunately, however, on the following day Whittaker 
Wright showed no signs of the exhaustion which had come 
upon him towards the end of the day before, while Rufus 
Isaacs was standing up to his ordeal, which was only less 
severe than Whittaker Wright's, with the toughness that is 
in part concealed and in part suggested by the spareness 
of his frame. But before the contest was resumed there 
was another thrill, for Mr Justice Bigham did not take his 
seat until n.o^and then it was observed that there was a 
worried expression on his ruddy-cheeked, keen-eyed, nor 
mally jovial face. He referred to "abusive anonymous 
letters" which had been received it may be remarked 
parenthetically that the causa celebre seems inseparable from 
abusive anonymous letters and then referred to " attempts 
of a much more serious character in other directions to 
interfere with the course of justice." But while the crowded 
Court was wondering to what this might refer, Rufus Isaacs 
and Whittaker Wright had taken their places in the lists, 
and were once more the cynosure of all eyes. Once more 
the attack was pressed home, not savagely or vindictively, 
but firmly and unwaveringly. Rufus Isaacs was now con 
centrating on 1900 on the 2,000,000 odd " assets," on 
the concealment of losses, on the alleged writing down of 
the shares by 500,000 to allow for depreciation. 

" You made a speech at the shareholders' meeting; you 
knew there were rumours as to the state of the Globe's 
affairs?'" 

" No doubt." 

" You were anxious to put the best face on affairs you 
could? " 

No doubt" 

" You knew that the important matter to the shareholders 
was the item of 2,332,000 value of shares held in sundry 
companies? " 

a The state of the company was the important thing." 

" The company owed to sundry creditors 570,000? " 

"Yes." 



146 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

" Your assets were about 2,700,000? " 

" Yes." 

"The largest item in the 2,700,000 was the 
2,332,000? " 

" Yes." 

" It was important to know how much had been written 
off? " 

" Yes." 

" You dealt with that in your speech? " 

" I answered questions." 

" You said over a million sterling had been written off 
for depreciation j that was untrue." 

" I do not admit it; you must take the whole report 
together." 

" You said over a million sterling." 

" I should have said c for loss and depreciation.' " 

" Have you any doubt that this statement is absolutely 
untrue? " 

" In its connection it is true. But I ought to have said 
c loss and depreciation.' It was an extempore utterance." 

" That is, as it stands," concluded Rufus Isaacs with quiet , 
decisiveness, " the statement is untrue? " 

The questioning continued: 

" Had the company a single Lake View at this time? " 

" I think they had forty-eight." 

" I was referring to 1900." 

" I thought 1899 was referred to. There were none in 
1900. This was a loss and I should have said 'loss and 
depreciation.' " 

"You said you had marked them as low as possible. 
Had you in the list of assets the 2,332,000 marked 
them down a penny? " 

" I did not take into account the half-million." 

" Then you had not marked as low as possible. Would 
you like to say it was a slip of the tongue? " 

" Yes, if you like. I am not an accountant. The half- 
million was deducted wiped out. It was no longer a 



reserve." 



FALL OF WHITTAKER WRIGHT 147 

"You must get a plain answer to that," put in Mr 
Justice Bigham, and Rufus Isaacs proceeded: 

" You had deducted 500,000 from your list of assets. 
Had you not put that back? " 

" I know that this was no longer reserve ; it was, I 
suppose, put back." 

" The effect was to write up the value of the assets? " 

" I cannot admit that" 

" I must have an answer," said the Judge sternly. 

But W.W. was obstinate: " I cannot admit this," was all 
he replied. 

"In 1899," Mr Justice Bigham explained, "you had 
500,000 for contingencies. In 1900 this was put to the 
credit? " 

" That is^how it would come out at the finish, no doubt." 
The admission was reluctant 

" Explain the marking down," resumed Rufus Isaacs ; 
" what had you taken off? " 

" The half-million." 

" You had not marked this off, but put it on." The 
correction was gentle, but irrefutable. 

" You edited the report, put in the < hear, hears ' and so 
on? " 

" Yes, and rightly." 

" But the slip of the tongue was left uncorrected," replied 
Rufus Isaacs, for though the sentence preceding the one 
which spoke of the " marking off " was corrected, that sen 
tence itself had not been touched. 

W.W. said something to the effect that his time being 
absorbed, somebody else should have seen to it as it was, 
he had to do everybody's business in the company. And so 
the great battle had ended in something very like a rout 5 
the great financier, compelled time and again to make 
damaging confessions, was forced at last to take refuge 
behind the defence of the maid-of -all-work " I had too 
much to do." 

As Whittaker Wright stepped from the box there had 
been a brief re-examination by Lawson Walton the mantle 



148 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

of his fate already seemed to hang upon him 5 he resumed 
his place in Court, and listened to Rufus Isaacs' speech, 
sitting forward with his head in his hands and scarcely 
exchanging a word with his advisers. At least, however, 
he had a respite from activity, though not from anxiety. 
Not so Rufus Isaacs, for like a good general he had to 
consolidate the advantage which he had gained in his cross- 
examination, by his final speech, and within a short time of 
the conclusion of the cross-examination he was again on his 
feet. He spoke for the rest of that day and the whole of 
the next (the tenth of the trial) lucidly, effortlessly, without 
a falter and, as usual in spite of the intricacy of the case 
almost without a note. The speech, coming as it did 
at the end of a most exacting week, was a triumph of sober 
achievement 5 he eschewed rhetoric and invectiv*e, and was 
content to elucidate to the jury what the evidence had 
shown. For in this type of case it is especially true to say 
that the jury prefer instruction to edification. 

He began his speech by saying that he had nothing to 
withdraw of what he had said in his opening, speech, since 
there had not been a single statement of fact, as opposed to 
inference, disproved j indeed Whittaker Wright had con 
victed himself out of his own mouth, when he admitted in 
cross-examination that he had published the 1900 balance- 
sheet in order to conceal from the shareholders the true 
state of affairs. It was clear that W.W. had set out to 
commit the offence, for he had been engaged in a heavy 
gamble in the autumn of 1899, when die Globe lost 
750,000 and the Standard 250,000 in Lake Views; by 
September 30, 1900, there was still a heavy loss, and the 
accountant had computed that if the balance had been taken 
on that day on the Globe method, there would have been 
a loss of 1,600,000, including the reserve of 500,000. 
Whittaker Wright's problem was how to conceal the loss 
from the shareholders so as to tide over the bad period and 
win his encounter with the "bears" of Lake Views. By 
virtue of his position at the head of so many companies, he 
had been able so to manipulate the figures as to make it 



FALL OF WHITTAKER WRIGHT 149 

appear that the Globe not only had its capital intact but had 
made a profit of 463,000 in those bad times 5 meantime, 
while he was thus trying to persuade others, by concealing 
the true position to increase their holdings in Globe, he was 
himself unloading his own share in August and September 
of 1899 he sold 166,000. The ordinary individual would 
look at the balance-sheet to see the position, and what was 
the result of that? On December 5th, 1900, the accounts 
showed assets of 2,700,000. Mr Wright at the meeting 
said that that was after writing off a million sterling. 
Could any fact or argument be more eloquent of the true 
state of things than the fact that within eleven days the 
company came to grief with creditors for 2,000,000, who 
got a shilling and might get another sixpence in the pound? 
Could anything be more pregnant with meaning, and not a 
penny for the shareholders, let them allow all they pleased 
for realisation in such circumstances? As to W.W.'s state 
ment that a million sterling had been written off for depreci 
ation, he had had to admit in cross-examination that, so 
far from this being true, they had actually appreciated their 
assets, while admittedly no corrections had been made in 
the report sent out, of those various " slips of the tongue " 
which had so misrepresented the position. Finally there 
was the omission of the 1,600,000 from the liabilities of 
the Globe in the 1900 balance-sheet, which as Whittaker 
Wright had admitted in cross-examination, was done to 
conceal the facts. These liabilities had been transferred to 
the Standard ; was this a bona fide transaction, and was the 
Standard in a position to shoulder this liability? The 
answer can be supplied in Rufus Isaacs' own words: " The 
position was that it had 200 in its banks; on December 
28th it came to grief, and the shareholders to the extent of 
its whole capital did not get a penny, while the creditors 
got sevenpence in the pound. This was the company that 
was taking over 1,600,000 of liabilities." 

Rufus Isaacs had laid a long siege, and as a result the 
position of the defence had fallen in at every point. After 
a week of cross-examination and exposition the facts were 



150 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

laid bare, and they were apparently fatal to Whittaker 
Wright. During the week-end which followed Rufus Isaacs' 
speech, the country was in a fever of excitement as to the 
issue of the trial, though by this time an adverse verdict 
was probable. However, Mr Lawson Walton had still to 
make his speech for the defence, and it proved to be a great 
effort. He spoke for five hours, striking a more human 
note than Rufus Isaacs as he was entitled to do since he 
was appearing for the defence but at the same time not 
shrinking from the technical issues. He complained that 
it was a vindictive prosecution and that Whittaker Wright 
had been singled out of the other directors to be put on his 
trial alone. There was little evidence, he contended, of 
anybody having been misled, and indeed Whittaker Wright 
had been acting in what he conceived to be ultimately the 
best interests of his shareholders. Lawson Walton made 
considerable play, too, with the Attorney-General's refusal 
to sanction a prosecution at the public expense, and con 
cluded his speech with an eloquent appeal: " Every spot," 
he said, " outside this Court the whole outside world 
has been ringing with the clamour of denunciation against 
this man on the part of those who have not stopped to hear 
my speech, who do not trouble to listen to his defence. He 
has been brought here by a hue and cry, which has had its 
reflection in the gallery of this Court. I urge you to show 
the courage of Englishmen, to decide this case not on pre 
judice. And as -you are entitled to bring in a general 
verdict of Not Guilty, I urge you, if you think right, to 
return such a verdict, and thus save the defendant from the 
ruin that an adverse verdict would involve upon him and all 
concerned with him." 

The next day, the twelfth and last of the trial, Mr 
Justice Bigham summed up. As a luminous exposition of 
the facts and issues of the case his summing up cannot be 
too highly praised j it was scrupulously fair, but it left 
little hope for Whittaker Wright. He at least had no 
illusion as to his chances, for his bent head and the occasional 
quick glances which he darted at the jury during the 



FALL OF WHITTAKER WRIGHT 151 

summing up, betokened a hopeless demeanour. Indeed a 
change seemed to come over his face, even while the Judge 
was speaking, and those who were curious to see how he 
took the summing up saw, instead of the firm, ruddy features 
of W.W., a heavy sagging of grey flesh and puckered eyes, 
the face of a dying man. " It was as if we saw a man aging 
before our eyes." And there were those who could not take 
their eyes off the ghastly and pathetic spectacle ; the shadow 
of his doom lay only too plainly across the great financier. 

The jury were absent for only an hour and returned at 
2.45, when it was observed that Mr Justice Darling, 
unrobed, accompanied Mr Justice Bigham to the Bench. 
Nobody could doubt the verdict, for, considering the course 
of the case, so short a retirement could mean only one 
thing j but doubtless there were many in that Court looking 
anxiously and fearfully at the foreman, in whose hearts hope, 
irrational as ever, was an unconscionable time in dying. 
^Guiltyj " it was inevitable. But Lawson Walton was on 
his feet, speaking in mitigation and indicating the possibility 
of appeal. And then all eyes were turned to Whittaker 
Wright, as he rose to receive sentence. Would he collapse 
or would he make a brave front? Did that ghastly pallor 
mean that his courage had deserted him? But he stood and 
faced the Judge squarely, and the coat folded about him 
heightened the impression of a Roman Stoic faring his doom, 
as he listened to the sentence of the Bench. 

" Mr Whittaker Wright, in my opinion the jury could 
have arrived at no other opinion than that which they 
expressed in their verdict. I confess that I see nothing that 
in any way excuses the crime of which you have been found 
guilty, and I cannot conceive a worse case than yours under 
these sections of the Act of Parliament which defines your 
offence. In those circumstances I do not think I have any 
option except to visit you with the severest punishment which 

that Act permits, and that is to go to penal servitude for 




seven years." 



j 

It was what Whittaker Wright had expected, for on his 
blotter were discovered several Ws and at the bottom the 



152 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

Roman numeral VII, with the word " intent " in the middle. 
And he did not falter as he answered the Judge in a deep, 
firm voice: " My lord, all I have to say is that I am as 
innocent as any person in this Court of any intention to 
deceive or defraud the shareholders. And that is all I have 
to say." The last words were shouted in vehement defiance. 
It was his last defence save one; for the Stoic philosophy 
allowed one more. 

After the sentence Whittaker Wright was taken by the 
assistant-superintendent of the Courts and a tipstaff to the 
room which had been set aside for his use during the trial 5 
and there, after locking the door, they left him with Mr 
Eyre, who had entered into recognisances on his behalf, Mr 
Morten, the former chief accountant of the Globe, and Mr 
George Lewis 5 W.W. seemed composed, though his face 
still bore the ashen look which had come over it during the 
summing up, and several times he protested his innocence 
and his amazement at the verdict. Then, looking round, 
he said in his slow, deep voice: " I wish to thank you very 
much for all you have done for me," and added, " every 
thing that could have been done has been done." Mr Eyre 
then asked if he had not better telephone to Mrs Whittaker 
Wright, but W.W. waved him back 5 " No," he said, " there 
is plenty of time for that. Sit down." He was clearly 
anxious that all should stay in the room, but moved about 
restlessly himself, crossing the room and sitting down in 
the armchair at the far end of it. " Morten," he said, " give 
me another cigar." Morten gave him a cigar and with it a 
lighted match, which W.W. raised to his cigar. But 
instantly he threw it to the ground and his face, which had 
been pale, went dark 5 in a moment he had collapsed. They 
hurried to him, but he spoke no more, and though a doctor 
was hastily summoned, Whittaker Wright was dead. 

He had made a dupe of Fate as easily as of his share 
holders j for there was no doubt as to the manner or intention 
of his death. He had died of suffocation caused by swallow 
ing cyanide of potassium, and the pathologist discovered a 
place at the back of his tongue where the mucous membrane 



FALL OF WHITTAKER WRIGHT 153 

was more corroded than elsewhere j it was there that W.W. 
had nursed the little tablet during the day's proceedings, 
ready to live a free man or to die rather than face the dis 
honour of confinement. And so that there might be no 
mistake he had carried in addition a six-chambered American 
revolver, fully loaded and cocked, which was discovered 
when his body was searched after death. Had he been 
tried at the Old Bailey search would have been made before 
hand so that he would certainly not have been able to carry 
the revolver, and might possibly have had no opportunity 
of using the cyanide of potassium 5 but in the Law Courts, 
which are normally devoted to civil litigation there is no 
provision for search, and so Whittaker Wright could take 
his life unhampered. 

The case was a great triumph for Rufus Isaacs, but the 
occasion was not one for personal triumph 3 rather there was 
the dull reaction after an exhausting case, the gladness that 
it was over, and perhaps the instinctive sorrow at the fate 
which had overcome a gallant antagonist. For, however 
much Whittaker Wright may have deserved his fate, it is 
impossible to withhold sympathy from him in the encounter 
ing of it; the flinging down of greatness is a constant theme 
of tragedy, and the sense of tragedy is sharpened, if one 
has oneself been an instrument in bringing about the down 
fall. For tragedy, whose appeal is irresistible, takes no 
heed of elementary ethics 5 it demands only greatness in its 
subject, and, despite his ostentation and his crudity, it is 
impossible to deny a certain greatness to Whittaker Wright. 
That he was rightly convicted there can be no doubt, for 
though genius may have its own rules, society, which has 
no genius not even financial must protect itself from 
their operation. As in the cases of Oscar Wilde and Roger 
Casement the two other, and greater, tragic cases of the 
last half century the conviction was undoubtedly right in 
law, and the convicted as certainly has our sympathy. But, 
whereas Wilde left the legacy of his literature and Casement 
the heritage of faith, Whittaker Wright left no thing 5 and 
yet in a sense he had fallen from a higher position, for he 



154 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

had been a dictator in his province, an uncrowned king. And 
now all his glories, conquests, triumphs, spoils, were shrunk 
to the measure of death and ignominy. 

" But yesterday the word of Caesar might 
Have stood against the world ; now lies he there, 
And none so poor to do him reverence." 

None falls so low as the stricken favourite of Fortune. 
But there were some who did him reverence; for as his 
coffin was borne on a wet and wintry morning through the 
lanes of Surrey, the villagers came out and uncovered. They 
had known him as a man of great wealth, but as a man of 
generosity, kindliness and humanity 5 and as such they 
judged him, for they knew little of Lake Views and Finance 
Corporations. They were simple folk, and simple folk 
judge by simple things. And they are not always wrong. 



CHAPTER XI 

THE READING BYE-ELECTION: IN PARLIAMENT 

^ I V HE Whittaker Wright case placed Rufus Isaacs at 
I the very pinnacle of the Bar, both in its own estimate 
-*- and in that of the public. It finally consolidated and 
secured the great position which the advocacy of the pre 
ceding three years had won for him. Indeed, young as he 
was he was only forty-three at the time of the Whittaker 
Wright case he had risen to be perhaps the leading 
Common Law advocate in the land} the Victorian giants, 
Russell and James, practised no longer, Sir Edward Clarke 
was past his prime, Sir Edward Carson as Solicitor-General 
was restricted in his activities, and Lawson Walton had 
never occupied quite the position at the Bar at which his 
former pupil had already arrived. The chambers in Garden 
Court were besieged with briefs of every sort, for Rufus 
Isaacs' was always a comprehensive practice; company cases, 
libel actions, divorce suits, Trade Union litigation, criminal 
defences, even Chancery work he took them all in his 
stride, often several of them together, for at the Bar he was 
never a mere specialist. He could turn his hand to any 
thing, and generally excel the people who did only that 
one thing; consequently his practice was immense, and 
already greatly more lucrative than the 7,000 a year with 
which he had quitted the junior Bar. It was in this year, 
too, that his position at the Bar and his personal popularity 
in the profession won the pleasantest of all legal recognitions 
in his election to the Bench of the Middle Temple ; he has 
thus been a Master of the Bench for nearly thirty years, 
and on his return from India was elected in 1928 Treasurer 
of the Middle Temple the highest honour that the Society 
can bestow on its members. 

On January 27th, 1904, the very day after the conviction 

155 



156 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

and death of Whittaker Wright, Rufus Isaacs appeared for 
the Yorkshire Miners' Federation in a most important case, 
whose ramifications we shall encounter later. In the Spring 
he was counsel for the great City firm of Gibbs, Bright and 
Company in the action known as Lake George Gold Mines 
v. Gibbs, Bright and Company. Actually Lake George 
Gold Mines was in liquidation, and the action was brought 
for the benefit of the company which had taken over its 
rights. The claim for damages was in respect of alleged 
fraudulent misrepresentation and negligence, for the plain 
tiffs contended that Gibbs, Bright and Company had fraudu 
lently manipulated the Lake George Companies for the pur 
pose of making gains on the Stock Exchange and not in 
order to 'develop the mines for the benefit of the share 
holders j and they said that in furtherance of their purpose 
they had used false reports of the state of the mines, knowing 
them to be false. In this case Rufus Isaacs again found 
himself matched against Sir Edward Clarke, while he had 
with him Charles Gill, K.C, and Charles Matthews ; in 
addition to these two, there was fourth counsel in the person 
of Douglas Hogg who had just been called to the Bar at 
the comparatively mature age of thirty-three. The case 
was soon over, and was extremely satisfactory to Rufus 
Isaacs. In the course of cross-examination, he succeeded in 
making it clear that the reports had been made by honest 
and competent metallurgists, and that there was no intention 
to defraud 5 he then addressed the jury, and at the conclusion 
of his speech, Mr Justice Lawrence ruled that there was no 
evidence of fraud to go to the jury, since the charges had 
been disproved out of the mouth of the plaintiffs' own wit 
nesses. Rufus Isaacs then proceeded to deal with the issue 
of negligence, but before he had finished, the jury decided 
that that charge too was effectually disproved and intimated 
that they need hear no more. And so the case ended in 
complete and speedy victory. 

The year contained other notable cases, but the main 
interest of the later part of 1904 was Rufus Isaacs' entry 
into Parliament. After the General Election of 1900 he 



IN PARLIAMENT i57 

had been perforce comparatively inactive in politics for about 
two years j but then he became interested in the constituency 
of Reading, where it was realised that the sitting member, 
Mr G. W. Palmer, the biscuit manufacturer and a great 
local figure, was unlikely, owing to increasing deafness, to 
fight another election. In point of fact Mr Palmer did not 
wait for the general election, but retired in the summer of 
1904, and Rufus Isaacs, who had then been nursing the 
constituency, whose name he was one day to take as his own, 
for eighteen months, was adopted as Liberal candidate in 
his stead. Both Mr Palmer and Mr Keyser, the Tory 
candidate, were local men of substance, with many interests 
and activities in Reading, while Rufus Isaacs, of course, was 
not 5 he had, on the other hand, the compensating advantage 
of being a national figure, for, though he was an apprentice 
in politics, his name was known to all as an advocate, who 
had been leading counsel in most of the great cases in the 
preceding lustrum. And, though most constituencies like 
to be represented in Parliament by local men, they also like 
the distinction of sending to Parliament a famous figure, 
whose presence there is desired by the party and valuable 
in debate. 

On general grounds, too, Rufus Isaacs was much mote 
favourably placed than at North Kensington in 1900. For 
Reading, though it had rather a see-saw record at elections 
it had been Conservative in 1885, Liberal in 1892, Con 
servative again in 1895, and Liberal in 1900 had returned 
a Liberal at the " Khaki Election," and was therefore hardly 
likely to reverse the decision four years later in favour of a 
Government whose sands were running out. The tactical 
disadvantages of a split party, too, were now to some extent 
transferred to the Conservative Party, for, while the Liberals 
had been welded into a certain unity under the leadership 
of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the Conservative Party 
was labouring in the difficult waters of Protection. Mr 
Chamberlain, who with Midland directness was for a bold 
policy of Protection was followed by the more ardent mem 
bers of the party j but Mr Balfour, mindful of the strong 



158 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

Free Trade element within the party, employed all the 
resources of a philosophic mind in subtle dialectical evasions 
of the " plain issue," and could be pushed no further than 
" reciprocity." The difficulties which this situation presented 
to a Conservative candidate in a bye-election, who did not 
happen to possess his leader's talent for combining meta 
physical clarity with political obscurity, hardly requires 
stressing. Mr Keyser, however, did his best, and his election 
address said: "The question of Fiscal Reform has long 
had my careful attention, and I am of opinion that the 
state of Trade in the Empire necessitates a most careful 
inquiry into the whole matter, and that some measures 
should be adopted to preserve to this country the industries 
and manufactures that are now so seriously handicapped by 
unfair foreign competition," 

This exposition of his attitude might pass in certain quar 
ters, but it was hardly likely to survive the criticism of one 
of the acutest intellects at the Bar 5 and at the great meeting 
in the Town Hall, with which he opened his campaign, 
Rufus Isaacs successfully poured ridicule upon it. " I can't 
help thinking," he said, " that he must have been reading 
Mr Balfour's speech at Sheffield and out of the maze of it 
he must have penned this paragraph : c The question of 
Fiscal Reform has long had my careful attention.' Mark 
that. Mr Keyser is not starting upon his initial study of 
Fiscal Reform, but it has long had his attention. c I am of 
opinion that the state of Trade in the Empire necessitates a 
most careful inquiry into the whole matter.' One would 
have imagined that one might have arrived at that conclusion 
without long and careful consideration." His own attitude 
was clear and definite. He declared unreservedly for the 
Liberal programme of Free Trade, taxation of land values, 
retrenchment, and economy. With regard to the particular 
storm-centres of the time (outside the fiscal issue) he 
advocated Army reform to promote efficiency, and attacked 
the Government's Licensing and Education Bills- his view 
on education was " in favour of a great and comprehensive 
system of education, free and controlled by the people, so 



IN PARLIAMENT 159 

that the utmost advantages to be derived from study should 
be brought within reach of the poorest of the community." 
In respect of the position of the Trade Unions after the 
Taff Vale judgment the details and importance of which 
he had every reason to know he declared himself " in 
favour of amending the laws affecting Trade Unions so as 
to afford adequate protection to the association of working 
men." 

The election, which lasted nine days (including August 
Bank holiday), was hardly contested, but with an agreeable 
absence of personalities and hooliganism. Rufus Isaacs had, 
on various nights, the support of rising young Liberals. 
There was Mr Herbert Samuel, who made a long speech 
on a hot night j there was Mr Winston Churchill, who 
pronounced a paean upon his own consistency, for he had 
always preached one gospel since the controversy began. 
" Free Trade," he said, " is not only a British cause, not only 
an Imperialist cause j it is also a human cause." There was, 
too, Mr Lloyd George, who spoke in the Town Hall and 
urged them " not to allow the Tory Ark to rest at Reading." 
Contemplation of the subsequent careers of these distin 
guished gentlemen gives point to Rufus Isaacs' remark: " it 
is quite possible that on some questions we do not agree to 
the fullest extent as no body of Liberals possibly can." 
Rufus Isaacs could not perhaps rival the election eloquence 
of these notable sponsors, but he made an excellent candi 
date. He was especially good at meetings, when he was 
subjected to considerable heckling j he retained his self- 
possession and said that the warmer the meeting, the better 
he liked it. This is, of course, a stock remark of Parlia 
mentary candidates in the circumstances ; but where Rufus 
Isaacs differed was that he managed to look as if it was true. 

There was great excitement in Reading on the night of 
the declaration of the poll, and a huge crowd was rewarded 
at 10.15 by the appearance of a placard, bearing the inscrip 
tion: " Rufus D. Isaacs, K.C., M.P." So great was the 
storm of cheering that Rufus Isaacs, who had appeared on 
the balcony, could not make himself heard, and had to speak 



160 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

on an improvised platform indoors. Here he spoke frankly 
of his position. After referring to the fact that Palmer and 
Keyser were both local men, he said: " I came of course as a 
stranger. I only wooed you as a politician. I never attempted 
to do anything else than to appeal to you as a politician." 
This was true in 1904; but time was to make him more than 
merely a politician in Reading. The evening ended with 
Rufus Isaacs and Mrs Isaacs being dragged round the town 
in their carriage 5 and on arriving at the hotel, they received 
another ovation. This time, however, he merely appeared 
at the window and said " Bravo, Reading j this is your 
victory, not mine," and, with these few words to sustain 
them, the crowd remained undispersed till the early hours 
of the morning. 

The remarks of the Morning Post & hostile paper on 
the election may perhaps be quoted: " Mr Isaacs on the 
other hand had all the advantages of platform power, for 
no man is more richly gifted in making the worse appear 
the better cause, and the arguments for Liberalism have 
never been presented more alluringly than during this short 
contest." 

He had now entered, however, into a longer contest, and 
he had a wider platform on which to advance the arguments 
for Liberalism. That the occasion presented a considerable 
opportunity is undeniable, for Rufus Isaacs entered the 
House of Commons at a time when a Conservative Govern 
ment had been in power for nearly a decade. The Conserva 
tive Party, which had been in office since 1895, had in 1900 
been re-elected on issues which in 1 904 had taken their place 
in history, and there were not wanting signs that the 
administration was losing not only the confidence of the 
electorate but of its own supporters in Parliament. Joseph 
Chamberlain had retired from office in order to be more free 
to prosecute a vigorous campaign in favour of Protection 
in the country, and he had taken with him the driving force 
of the party and the loyalty of its most active members. Nor 
was he the only critic within the ranks, for the " Young 
Tories," headed by Lord Hugh Cecil, had for some time 



IN PARLIAMENT 161 

been vehemently demanding a more spirited policy from the 
Government, while even those who had no particular sym 
pathy with either Mr Chamberlain or Lord Hugh Cecil, 
were bewildered by Mr Balfour's subtleties of phraseology 
and disappointed with his failure to give a clear lead. The 
Conservatives presented to the country the pathetic spectacle 
of a great party unable to make up its mind, while Mr 
Balfour failed to realise that a democratic electorate will 
not take subtleties in exchange for leadership, but demands 
from those who aspire to lead a dear enunciation of prin 
ciple, cost what it may. The Government, disunited and 
paralysed as it was, with confidence neither in its hold on the 
country, in the enthusiasm of its followers, nor in the 
adequacy of its performance, was faced by an opposition to 
which the experience of adversity and the prospect of office 
had given new unity and determination. 

Such was the situation which presented itself to the new 
member for Reading, when he took his seat, and that situ 
ation is the measure of the opportunity which offered. It 
is true that he had not wrested a seat from the Government, 
but proof of the unpopularity of the Government in the 
country had already been supplied in a succession of such 
losses. And it were not as if he were a mere local somebody; 
he was eminent in his profession and it is a profession 
peculiarly allied to the House of Commons and all were 
familiar with the appearance, the prowess, and the talents 
of one who was perhaps the leading advocate of his day. 
Inevitably, therefore, his maiden speech was awaited with 
the keenest expectation (for contrary to a certain opinion 
the House does expect great things from prominent lawyers 
in spite of certain disappointments in very recent years, 
which will spring at once to the minds of Parliamentarians). 
It might have been expected that the great advocate, the 
new member representing the new state of the mind of the 
country, would hurl himself in a series of philippics at the 
tottering citadel of Conservative supremacy. He might have 
anticipated by twelve months, in very different circumstances, 
the famous maiden speech of F. E. Smith. He might have 



162 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

done; but he did not. In point of fact, his first intervention 
in the House was a question to the Minister in connection 
with the refusal of the Local Government Board to sanction 
a change of dietary in the Reading Vagrancy Board. 

It was not exactly that Rufus Isaacs failed in the House 
of Commons; one does not associate him with failure and 
he certainly did not fail, in the sense that he failed in a given 
undertaking, as on the Stock Exchange. One cannot fail in 
that sense where one does not compete, and Rufus Isaacs 
could not aspire to be an F. E. Smith in the House of 
Commons. The qualities and limitations of Rufus Isaacs' 
parliamentary equipment have been discussed in an earlier 
chapter, and it is sufficiently clear from these why he made 
no philippics. One further reason may be added; in Lord 
Reading's own words, " I was tired out when I got to the 
House," and the importance of this can scarcely be exagger 
ated. It is impossible to expect as much from a man who 
has spent the early morning in the study of his briefs, the 
whole day in addressing the Courts, and the evening in the 
strain of attendance in the Chamber with the addition of that 
exhausting and nerve-wracking purgatory of private mem 
bers, known as " catching the Speaker's eye," to perform as 
well when his turn does at last come, as, for instance, a 
Minister who chooses his time and who has spent the 
afternoon in being coached in his speech by his secretaries 
and his department. His preoccupation with the Courts, 
therefore, and the fact that his style of speaking was more 
suited to the Courts than to the Commons, prevented Rufus 
Isaacs from being a " House of Commons man." It did not 
prevent him from being a useful member; but it did mean 
that his efforts had to be of a contributory rather than of a 
vital or dominating nature. 

His maiden speech was made in connection with the 
Aliens' Bill, a Conservative measure for the regulation of 
the rights of aliens with regard to immigration, naturalisa 
tion and so on. Mr Balfour proposed a motion to give 
definite and restricted times for the discussion of the various 
stages of the Bill on the ground that only eleven out of the 



IN PARLIAMENT 163 

Session's seventy-three days had been devoted to legislation 
(that is, as distinct from Supply, the Address, and so on). 
In his speech on this motion Rufus Isaacs remarked that, 
whatever charges might be made against the Liberals of 
obstructing the business of the House, he could not 
be said to have done so, since he spoke as a " new member 
who has his lessons to learn, but who has been sitting and 
learning them now for some time." One lesson seemed 
not to reflect very much credit on the House, for he said: 
" Judging from my short experience of the way in which 
Parliament's affairs are conducted, the House of Commons, 
as a means of passing legislation, is a very ineffective body 
indeed." It is an opinion that the years have made more 
popular. The speech, which was made on July 5th, 1905, 
won him the congratulations of Mr Balfour, who referred 
to him as " the honourable and learned gentleman who has 
a deservedly high reputation in other spheres of activity." 
Twelve days later, on the Report Stage of the Bill, Rufus 
Isaacs moved an amendment to a clause of the Bill, affording 
protection to those seeking the asylum of these shores as a 
result of persecution on account of their religious opinions j 
his amendment, which was seconded by Lord Edmond 
Fitzmaurice, was designed to extend the protection to perse 
cution for political opinions as well. It was opposed, 
however, by Sir Robert Finlay on behalf of the Government 
and rejected by 214 votes to 152. 

But issues other than the rights of aliens were looming 
up 5 and they were to be voted on not by the House 
of Commons, but by the country. In point of fact the 
Conservative Government did not wait for the verdict of 
the electorate, but resigned office in the lifetime of Parlia 
ment. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was called upon to 
form a Government and, as soon as he had completed his 
task of selecting his administration, he recommended a dis 
solution. This took place in December, and on New Year's 
Day of 1906 Rufus Isaacs was once again in Reading Town 
Hall, but this time as the sitting member, asking for 
re-election to support the Government. 



CHAPTER XII 

THE DEFENCE OF SIR EDWARD RUSSELL 

RJFUS ISAACS' entry into political life did not affect 
his practice at the Bar, and in 1905 the annual 
avalanche of briefs was in no way diminished. In 
the first part of the year especially, he figured in a number 
of intricate and unusual cases. There was, for instance, a 
very big commercial case in the Chancery Division, in which 
the Chinese Minister, Chang, was one of the parties; in 
this case, in which Rufus Isaacs was led by Mr Hughes, K.C., 
seven " silks " took part. Another Chancery case in which 
he figured at about this time was the suit brought against 
the noted King's Counsel, Fletcher Moulton, by his step 
daughters. Then there were the Ogden " Guinea Gold " 
and the Denaby Colliery cases, both of which involved argu 
ment before the House of Lords. So, too, did the 
Watt case, which was concerned with the matrimonial 
complications of Hugh Watt, formerly a member of Parlia 
ment. For the libel actions in which he appeared for 
Colonel Morgan, on the other hand, brief hearings in the 
court of instance sufficed. 

The Ogden Guinea Gold case or, more properly, the 
case of Ogden Ltd. v. Nelson and Telford is in some 
respects unique. It arose out of a great tobacco war, in 
which the American firm of Ogden's competed desperately 
against the British Imperial Tobacco Company for control 
of the British market. They started to try and outbid each 
other in the inducements which they offered to retailers, 
and so extravagant did the offers become that Ogden's 
ultimately promised a bonus distribution of their entire net 
profits and an additional sum of 200,000 a year for four 
years. Payment of 50,000 was actually made for the first 
quarter of 1902, but a pace had been set which could not 

164 



DEFENCE OF SIR E. RUSSELL 165 

last. In September, Ogden's sold their business to the 
Imperial Tobacco Company and in October the firm went 
into voluntary liquidation, so that the retailers got no more 
largesse. Thus it was that when Ogden's sued a provincial 
retailer called Nelson for a sum of 58, he put in a counter 
claim for his share of the distribution, and it was held by 
Lord Alverstone that the offer was bona fide and that, 
therefore, although there had been no profits for the six 
months ending September 1902, Nelson was nevertheless 
entitled to 70 as his share of the 200,000. The decision 
was contested in the Court of Appeal and in the House of 
Lords, where Rufus Isaacs, who had not appeared in the 
hearings in the lower Courts, was briefed; but Lord Alver- 
stone's judgment was upheld and Ogden's remained liable. 
The not unnatural consequence was that writs poured in 
upon Ogden's from retail tobacconists all over the country 
until it was estimated that upwards of 700,000 was claimed 
in eight hundred cases. It was in these cases that F. E. 
Smith really established his position at the Bar, for though 
he was unsuccessful in many of them they gave great play 
to his forensic talents. Finally in 1906 the agreement 
between Ogden's and the Imperial Tobacco Company was 
brought to a successful conclusion, and peace reigned once 
more in the tobacco industry after a disastrous and expensive 
war of advertisement. 

With the cases for there were two arising out of the 
Denaby coal strike, Rufus Isaacs had a longer and closer 
connection, and they provide a good illustration of his 
tactical skill. The strike started at the end of June, 1902, 
and the two cases of Howden *?. Yorkshire Miners' Associa 
tion and Denaby Collieries v. Yorkshire Miners' Association, 
in both of which Rufus Isaacs was briefed for the Association, 
represented the effort of the colliery company to transfer 
the seat of war from the industrial field to the Courts. 

Briefly, the first case was designed to put a stop to the 
strike and the second to recover damages from the Associa 
tion for fomenting and supporting it. Of course, in theory 
the company had nQthing to do with Howden's case, for 



166 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

Howden was himself a member of the Association, who was 
asking the Court for an injunction to restrain the executive 
of the Association from paying away in strike pay funds to 
which he had contributed and on which he had a claim, in 
fact, he was acting as the nominee of the company, for if 
the injunction was granted it meant that the strike must end 
for want of funds to carry it on. The case had been heard 
on January I5th 5 1903, and after two days the jury had 
given their verdict for Howden. The Association appealed, 
and the appeal was heard almost immediately 5 for a 
favourable decision would be of little use to the company 
or to Howden if it did not come in time to break the strike. 
The interest of the Association, however, was that the pro 
ceedings should continue long enough for the strike to go on 
successfully, and to this end Rufus Isaacs had to protract 
his defence. He based his case in the Court of Appeal on 
the section of the Trade Union Act of 1871, which forbids 
the Courts to entertain any legal proceedings, instituted 
with the object of directly enforcing agreements for the ap 
plication of funds to provide contributions for members. He 
claimed that Howden's injunction was a form of directly 
enforcing an agreement, for what he was really doing by 
asking for an injunction was to claim that the Asociation 
should be compelled to retain their funds in order that they 
might be applied to other objects, t.e. y those benefits in which 
he was himself interested. Montagu Lush, however, for 
Howden, countered this argument by saying that if this was 
a " direct " enforcement, it was difficult to see what an 
" indirect " one would be, for the effect of granting an 
injunction to Howden to restrain the misapplication of the 
funds of the Association was not of itself to establish his title 
to benefit out of these funds. This view carried the day, 
and the Court of Appeal unanimously found in favour of 
Howden. But the form of injunction remained to be decided 
on, and in the consideration of this it was possible to post 
pone its final coming into operation until March 3rd, when 
the Association accepted the inevitable and called off the 
strike. 



DEFENCE OF SIR E. RUSSELL 167 

The case ultimately went for further hearing to the 
House of Lords, for, though the practical interest had gone, 
the point of law was important. But in the meantime the 
other case, in which the Denaby Colliery Company claimed 
125,000 damages from the Association in respect of the 
strike was heard in January 1904, before Mr Justice Law 
rence and a special jury, who found for the company, whereat 
the Association appealed. Rufus Isaacs, however, saw that 
if the House of Lords judgment in the Howden case con 
firmed the findings of the lower Courts, it would mean that 
the payment of strike pay had been held ultra vires the 
Association, and that the acts of the branch officials, who had 
authorised the strike, were not the acts of the Association, 
of which Howden was partj from this it followed that the 
Association, since it could not ratify or support the strike, 
could not be made liable in its funds for a strike in which, 
qua Association, it had neither part nor responsibility. The 
colliery company, in its eagerness to break the strike by the 
injunction, had demonstrated that the Association was not 
responsible for the strike, and their counsel, who had argued 
in the Howden case that the acts of the branch officials must 
not be taken to be the acts of the Association, were now 
called upon, in order to make the funds of the Association 
liable, to argue exactly the reverse. The company was 
trying to penalise sheep ajid goats alike, the innocent 
Howden along with the wicked and subversive officials. He 
applied, therefore, that the hearing of the appeal should 
wait until after the judgment of the House of Lords in the 
Howden case; his application was granted, and in April of 
1905, the Lords, by a majority of four to two, gave judg 
ment in favour of Howden, thus affirming the decisions of 
the lower Courts. The Denaby case came on shortly after 
wards, and Rufus Isaacs made great play with the 
inconsistency of the company's position and with the 
advantageous finding in the Howden case. This time his 
arguments triumphed and the unanimous decision of the 
Court of Appeal went in his favour. The company took 
the case to the Lords, where " the arguments ranged over 



1 68 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

every point that could be raised by the ingenuity of counsel 5 
they cited many cases, none of which were thought material 
by the House." Rufus Isaacs' position, therefore, remained 
unshaken and the Lords unanimously affirmed the decision 
of the Court of Appeal. The long proceedings, though 
perhaps wearisome to the layman in their detail, afford a 
notable example of the value of a sense of strategy in the 
advocate. Rufus Isaacs had achieved a practical advantage 
from the Howden case as far as it was possible, and had 
then used the adverse judgment as the basis of his contention 
in the Denaby case. He had made up on the roundabouts 
what he had lost upon the swings j or rather, he had more 
than made it up. For the chief practical importance to his 
clients of the Howden case had been the ephemeral one of 
the duration of the strike, while in the Denaby case he had 
saved them 125,000, not to mention costs. It takes, 
therefore, deservedly high place in the long list of Rufus 
Isaacs' Trade Union cases. 

Very different from these protracted proceedings were the 
two libel actions in which Rufus Isaacs appeared for Colonel 
Morgan. Colonel Morgan had been Director of Supplies 
in South Africa, and the cases were a final echo of the 
allegations of corruption in the Boer War. The libel was 
alleged in the report of a case in Pretoria, in which a Mr 
Hunter was the plaintiff; now Hunter had been manager of 
a farm .for supplying the troops in South Africa, which was 
under the general superintendence of Colonel Morgan, and 
it had transpired in the case not only that Hunter had made 
a profit of 1,800 on chaff, which he had bought from the 
Government for 300, but that one-third of his profit had 
gone to Colonel Morgan's brother, who had entered into 
partnership with Hunter after Colonel Morgan's departure 
from South Africa. The Central News account of the pro 
ceedings ended with the words: " The Judge after thus 
reviewing the case, concluded by saying * Comment is 
unnecessary '," and the account was duly printed in the 
Daily News on June 4th, 1904, under the heading "War 
Stores Scandal, A Transvaal Army Deal." There was 



DEFENCE OF SIR E. RUSSELL 169 

also a leading article, entitled " Shame and Scandal," which 
indicted the supposed corruption with true Radical fervour: 
" Now a sample case," it ran, " has come into the Supreme 
Civil Court, and the report says a Colonel Morgan (ex- 
Director of Military Supplies) sold to one Hunter for 300 
goods on which the purchaser made a profit of 1,800, one- 
third of which went to Morgan's brother . . . The story of 
the sordid corruption grows daily more shameful; the 
wretched land, now that murder has done its worst, seems 
delivered over to the kites and vultures." 

Colonel Morgan issued a writ for libel, and Rufus Isaacs 
was briefed to appear for him. After the issue of the writ 
the Daily News inserted an article saying that " the Central 
News is informed that Colonel Morgan has been exonerated 
from complicity in th$ so-called Pretoria forage scandal," 
but the paper was on very weak ground in fighting the case, 
for not only had Colonel Morgan left South Africa before 
the sale or before his brother had any connection with 
Hunter, but the Central News statement in regard to the 
trial hardly expressed the full facts. The Chief Justice of 
the Transvaal had used the expression " Comment is 
unnecessary," but in a different context frpm that implied} 
for he had said, " I say nothing about Colonel Morgan 
because he is not before me; I do not know what his account 
of the case may be ... but what I do say is this, that there 
has been shown in this action a transaction by which Govern 
ment stores had been sold for 300 and they realised 1,800. 
Comment is unnecessary." The words " comment is 
unnecessary," that is to say, were used after Colonel Morgan 
had already been dismissed from consideration, and not, as 
implied, in reference to his conduct. In the circumstances, 
the case gave little trouble to Rufus Isaacs, and after his 
opening of the case and examination of Colonel Morgan, 
Mr Robson, who represented the Daily News, said that his 
clients accepted Colonel Morgan's straightforward denial of 
having made the sale, and made sincere expression of regret j 
further, they were willing to make full indemnity. This 
latter offer Rufus Isaacs waived on behalf of his client, who, 



1 70 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

he said, was satisfied with the complete vindication of his 
character and had not brought the action to put money into 
his pocket. The Times was not quite so easily dealt with, 
for Mr Eldon Bankes, who appeared for the paper, 
differentiated the case from the Daily News case, on the 
ground that the Times had not seen fit to include any 
indignant references to " kites and vultures " or the rest. 
The case, therefore, went its course, and Rufus Isaacs cross- 
examined Mr Moberley Bell of the Times, and examined 
General Lyttleton and Sir E. Ward, the Permanent Under 
secretary to the War OfHce, who Were called for Colonel 
Morgan. Ultimately after two and a half hours 7 considera 
tion, the jury found for Colonel Morgan with 250 
damages. 

But perhaps the greatest case in which he appeared in 
1905 was his defence of Sir Edward Russell j and it is a 
case which he looks back upon with especial pride and 
pleasure. For, although the case lasted only three days, 
it had features in it which differentiated it from the ordinary 
run of case 3 and it was a proud and memorable case for 
Rufus Isaacs both because it gave him an opportunity of 
excelling in the field of eloquence and because it was his 
privilege to defend an illustrious public man from the ig 
nominy of conviction in a criminal case. His client, Sir 
Edward Russell (later the first Lord Russell of Liverpool), 
was, after a lifetime spent in journalism, the editor of the 
Liverpool Daily Post, a Liberal organ, and a much respected 
figure the last person one would have expected to find 
indicted on a criminal charge, in fact. But our criminal law 
provides remedies not only for offences against the person 
and property, but for offences against reputation in addition. 
And when one eminent and respected gentleman casts slurs 
on the reputation of other eminent and respected gentlemen, 
litigation on a large scale almost invariably ensues. It is 
ordinarily civil litigation, but libel may involve criminal 
prosecution j and if it is a libel of public men in the exercise 
of a public duty, then there is an instrument known as 
criminal information, which takes the place of an indictment, 



DEFENCE OF SIR E. RUSSELL 171 

and exempts the prosecution from the ordinary preliminaries. 
It was these circumstances that led up to, and this instrument 
which secured, the prosecution of Sir Edward -Russell. 

The prosecutors were eight members of the Licensing 
Committee of the Liverpool Justices j for it was this worthy 
body which Sir Edward had failed to treat with proper 
respect. His criticism was provoked by the operation by 
the Conservative members of the Liverpool Licensing Com 
mittee of the powers given to them and similar bodies by 
the Licensing Act of 1904. The aim of this Act which, 
as we have seen, was the cause of controversy in the political 
world was to reduce the number of licenses granted to 
publicans in cases where there were complaints or where 
there were too many public houses in a district. Those who 
did not have their licenses renewed were to receive com 
pensation, and the Act gave power to magistrates to levy 
compensation on every house in the district which did receive 
a license ; this procedure was based on the assumption that 
the surviving licenses would benefit by getting a proportion 
of the trade which had formerly gone to those whose licenses 
were extinguished under the Act. The consequence of this 
procedure was that, as compensation had to be paid and as 
this was the sole method provided for obtaining it, the 
extent to which existing licenses could be extinguished 
depended upon the amount of compensation which was 
levied upon the surviving licenses ; and the determination 
of the rate to be levied lay within the province of the 
Licensing Justices. It followed, of course, from the working 
of the system that it was in the interest of the liquor trade 
to have the compensation levied at the lowest possible rate, 
for then there was the dual advantage of having to pay less 
in compensation and having fewer licenses extinguished. 

Now in Liverpool the Licensing Committee numbered 
sixteen, and Sir Edward Russell had proposed in the 
Liverpool Post that the two parties should be equally 
represented on the Committee with Sir Thomas Hughes, a 
Conservative, as chairman. This suggestion, however, did 
not commend itself to the Conservatives, who were in a 



172 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

majority on the main body of Justices and considered it 
their right that their numerical superiority should be pro 
portionately reflected in the Committee 5 and, in consequence, 
the Licensing Committee consisted of ten Conservatives, 
including Sir Thomas Hughes, and six Liberals. On July 
1 2th the Committee met to discuss the rate of compensation, 
and the Liberal minority proposed to levy the full rate; 
this was opposed, however, by the eight Conservatives, who 
proposed half the rate. Sir Thomas Hughes proposed 
three-fifths of the full rate as a compromise, thinking that 
this amount was the least that would do; but his motion 
was defeated and the Conservative proposal for a half rate 
carried. The next day Sir Edward Russell denounced the 
Conservative attitude in his paper, on the ground that they 
were not trying to put into effect the reformist purpose of 
the Act, which indeed was what was to be expected of the 
friends of the liquor trade. The eight Conservatives con 
cerned interpreted this as being a personal reflection on their 
public conduct, and determined perhaps rather hastily 
on strong action. Mr F. E. Smith was briefed, and on July 
1 9th moved in the Divisional Court for a rule nisi for a 
criminal information for libel against Sir Edward; the rule 
was granted and on August 9th was made absolute, after 
argument before the Lord Chief Justice. 

In Liverpool the sensation was tremendous. The local 
party leaders were facing each other not in the decorous 
venue of political controversy, but in the more spirited 
arena of the Courts; and that, too, not as parties to civil 
litigation, but as prosecutor and accused in a grave criminal 
charge. The case was heard at the Liverpool Assizes in 
December of 1905 before Mr Justice Bray, and there was a 
strong representation of counsel from the Northern Circuit; 
Mr F. E. Smith was led by Mr Taylor, K.C., while for 
Russell, Rufus Isaacs led Mr Horridge, K.C., later to be 
better known as a High Court Judge, and Mr Hemmerde. 
The attention of the country was occupied primarily with 
the coming General Election, and the Liverpool trial was 
felt to be somewhat of a sideline or perhaps a rehearsal. 



DEFENCE OF SIR E. RUSSELL 173 

But in Liverpool the trial dwarfed all else; it was the sole 
subject of conversation, the sole focus of attention. Feeling 
ran ^ high, too, and excited partisans eagerly debated the 
merits of the case } the balance of merit perhaps inclined to 
Sir Edward^ but Liverpool has always been a stronghold 
of Conservatism, and he was wise to have secured the ser 
vices of so redoubtable a Liberal champion as Rufus Isaacs. 

The trial lasted for three exciting days, and was a notable 
triumph for Rufus Isaacs. Sir Edward Russell had pleaded 
" not guilty " on the ground that the alleged libel was true 
and published in the public interest, and that there was no 
imputation of corrupt or dishonest motives. Thus Rufus 
Isaacs defined the issue as "substantially a question of 
whether or not Sir Edward Russell was making a comment 
which he had a right to make upon a public body." It was, 
therefore, Rufus Isaacs' honourable task to vindicate the 
great principle of freedom of speech, for the case was, as 
he maintained, a "political case and nothing else." But 
first he had to prove out of the mouths of the hostile 
witnesses that this was so, and for this purpose the principal 
witness was Isaac Morris, the Conservative vice-chairman 
of the committee, a typical, hard-headed, slow-moving, 
northern ^ business man. In the course of a skilful cross- 
examination, in which he was quickly out-flanked, Mr 
Morris was forced to admit that he had insisted on a pro 
portionate, as against an equal, political representation, and 
that he had then at once gone to the Conservative Club to 
" invite " men to serve. When there were divisions in the 
Committee, too, he had to admit that they were on party 
lines. An important piece of evidence, with which Rufus 
Isaacs was to make great play in his final speech, came from 
Sir Charles Petrie, one of the eight plaintiffs, who stated 
that when he read the article he had not construed it as an 
imputation of corrupt or dishonest motives. 

At the conclusion of the evidence for the prosecution on 
the second day, Rufus Isaacs opened his case in a speech 
of an hour and fifty minutes. The speech, spoken in a 
Court packed with enthralled spectators, is partly, perhaps, 



174 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

on account of its comparative brevity, but mainly because 
he had so good a theme one of his greatest forensic 
efforts. His appeal to the principle of free speech was un 
qualified: " I don't hesitate to say in a public Court that 
not only was Sir Edward Russell entitled to make the ob 
servation contained in this article upon the action of these 
licensing justices in Liverpool, the predominant political 
party on this committee, but that he was entitled to comment 
upon the action of the judge upon the bench, and upon the 
action of all the magistrates in every court throughout the 
country. The days are not far coming in this country when 
criticism of those holding public positions is to be narrowed 
down by elaborate technicalities and the microscopic exam 
ination of every bit of the phraseology used in this article . . . 
Fox's Act established this one great principle, the funda 
mental principle of justice in this country that the question 
whether an article is a libel or not is not to be decided by 
the judge, however strong his views may be, but the question 
is to be decided and left by him to the consideration and 
determination of the jury. This is the law of this free 
country, and you, gentlemen of the jury, are called upon 
to administer that law." His peroration struck the right 
balance between the personal note and the note of defiance: 
" You are dealing with a man of Sir Edward Russell's 
position, known to you as he must be after an honoured 
life extending over a vast number of years, greater than 
most of us in this Court have attained to, but I am not 
going to say one word I would scorn to say a word, 
because I know that he would be the last man to wish that 
I should say a word that would deal with this case as one 
of mercy to him. What he is asking, what he is begging 
of you to do, is to deal with this case fairly and impartially, 
whatever your political views may be; deal with him as an 
honourable citizen, holding the views that he has published 
bona fide in the criticism, which he was entitled to administer 
to a public body. Deal with him as an honourable man, 
who says that he never intended what it has been alleged 
against him that he did intend; deal with him as one who 



DEFENCE OF SIR E. RUSSELL 175 

has done in this as in everything else that he has done 
throughout his life, as one who is well known to you as a man 
only anxious to continue in the sweetening and purifying of 
the city to which he has the honour to belong, and which 
has the honour of claiming him as one of the foremost of 
its citizens." 

On the following day, after the evidence of Sir Edward 
Russell, Rufus Isaacs again addressed the jury. Sir Edward 
had meanwhile in cross-examination defined his attitude and 
shown the difference between criticism of a public body and 
the imputation of personal dishonour. " I will suppose," 
he said, "that A.B. on that select committee knew CD., 
a license-holder, who could in any way profit by his vote. 
If A.B. gives his vote in reference to the interests of C.D., 
he is a dastard^ But I should say that if A.B. is a member 
of a large political body, which is in definite and continuous 
alliance with a certain trade interest, and if, coming to the 
conclusion with any sort of conscience, they think it is for the 
public good that the trade should be supported and should 
have its way, then I don't call that personal dishonour, even 
if their vote proves to the advantage of that trade." Sir 
Edward made a very good witness, and when Rufus Isaacs 
rose to make his final speech, it was with the encouraging 
knowledge that so far the case had gone without a hitch. 

He started his speech by solemnly reminding the jury 
of their responsibility and their duty cc to consider the matter 
in no narrow "or jealous spirit." There were two questions 
for their consideration ; first, whether the article passed the 
limits of that comment which every man is entitled to make 
upon the public acts of another, and, secondly, whether the 
criticism was true in substance and in fact. But in point of 
fact there should have been no necessity for them to try 
these issues j for "if that statement which Sir Charles 
Petrie made in the witness box, and with which the others, 
who were not called, are said to agree, had been made at 
an early stage of this case, when these proceedings were 
initiated, when this great cumbrous machinery of our 
criminal law was set in motion ... all this antiquated, 



176 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

obsolete as many have thought it, at any rate system of 
law would never have been requisitioned and put into 
operation, and you would never have been here to try this 
case, if only it had been known from the start that Sir 
Charles Petrie, as a sample of the bulk, thought that this 
article imputed no corrupt or dishonest motives to the magis 
trates who were attacked." But as it was, "this farce 
I am entitled to call it a farce and I do this farce is to be 
gone through of asking you to find that this article does 
not mean what my friend is saying, and I have to ask you 
to find that this article means what Sir Charles Petrie, the 
prosecutor, says." 

He urged that as the criminal procedure could only be 
justified by the imputation of dishonest motives in the dis 
charge of public duty, and, since there was no such 
imputation in this case, an ordinary civil action should have 
been brought. " But you could not be right to set this pro 
cedure in motion for the trumpery and trivial thing which 
you are now discussing when you once get rid of the 
imputation of corruption or dishonest conduct. Why, the 
question which we are really discussing is whether Sir 
Edward Russell is to be found guilty . . . because he has 
ventured to criticise strongly, perhaps exaggeratingly, the 
conduct of these eight members of the Licensing Committee 
public men in connection with the discharge of their 
public duty." He then went through the article piecemeal 
to show that it was in substance an accurate and fair com 
ment. At the end of this analysis the speech took a dramatic 
and unexpected turn, for Rufus Isaacs interpreted the 
feelings not of his own client which is quite a stock con 
comitant of the eloquent peroration but of his client's 
accusers. " That," he said, " is the whole article. When 
you come to deal with it in the light of the facts which have 
been disclosed in this Court, don't you think, gentlemen, 
that the prosecutors are at the present moment feeling very 
considerable regret that they ever thought fit to bring these 
proceedings? Don't you think that in their heart of hearts 
and in their better moments, when political passion or par- 



DEFENCE OF SIR E. RUSSELL 177 

tisanship are not in the ascendant, that they will themselves 
probably think at this moment men of honour, all of them 
men of position that they hope that your verdict will be 
one of acquittal of the defendant, so that they may not have 
upon their minds the burden of responsibility of thinking 
that they have brought down a high-minded and honourable 
man from the position which he has occupied to the credit 
and glory of the city to which he belongs." 

These two speeches of Rufus Isaacs won high praise both 
from the ^Bench and from opposing counsel. Mr Taylor, 
before going on to criticise the substance of the case, paid 
tribute to its presentation in a reference to " two magnificent 
speeches . . . brilliant in their language, telling in their 
appeal to you, dramatic in their force, touching in their 
references to the man whom he was defending," while Mr 
Justice Bray, who was a comparatively new judge, said, " I 
have never heard, while sitting upon the Bench, two finer 
addresses than those which you, gentlemen of the jury, 
have been privileged to hear to-day and yesterday." Indeed, 
Rufus Isaacs 7 speeches and conduct of the case had left little 
doubt as to the verdict, and it only took the jury eighteen 
minutes after the summing up to find Sir Edward Russell 
not guilty. The expected verdict was received with 
tremendous enthusiasm, and a huge crowd outside the 
Court acclaimed Sir Edward in triumph 5 indeed so popular 
was the verdict that we can believe, with Rufus Isaacs, that 
the prosecutors themselves were secretly glad of it. Sir 
Edward paid a most generous tribute to the talent and 
character of Rufus Isaacs, and declared that " one of the 
many good results of my prosecution as a criminal is that I 
have gained him as a friend." The Liverpool Post was 
equally appreciative: <c And perhaps the greatest result of 
all this episode in which we have been concerned will be 
that the magnificent championship of Mr Rufus Isaacs, 
worthy of Erskine and Lord Russell of Killowen, acknow 
ledged by the very Bench to have conferred distinction on 
the Northern Circuit and on the whole Bar, will arouse the 
Press to a sense of its rights, the country to a recognition of 



178 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

the Press's services to right and reform, and juries to a 
feeling that they must imitate the wisdom, the courage, and 
the high morals of the jury which acquitted Sir Edward 
Russell." 

But Rufus Isaacs was not himself present to receive the 
universal applause, as he had had to leave Liverpool before 
the verdict. For the law and politics are stern taskmasters, 
who extort the labour of achievement and allow but spar 
ingly indulgence in congratulations or the contemplation of 
success 5 and in December of 1905 the finger of politics 
beckoned Rufus Isaacs to a new struggle. 



CHAPTER XIII 

THE LIBERAL TRIUMPH OF 1906: THE TRADES 
DISPUTES BILL 

^ I A HE election of 1906 is a famous election, for it had 
I more than a passing interest. It was hailed by Liberals 
*- at the time as the turn of the tide 5 Liberalism was 
restored to power after ten years in the wilderness. But 
1906 brought something more than general post in White 
hall ; it brought a new vitality to politics and a new bitterness, 
It brought, too, for the first time the strong influence of 
organised labour, and, arising in part out of this, a speeding- 
up of that new process in politics, of which the good side is 
represented by a desire for social amelioration, and the bad 
by a reckless irresponsibility in the pursuit of its attainment. 
That 1906 would bring a Liberal victory was, after a decade 
of undistinguished Tory Government, inevitable; but that 
the victory should have been so sweeping a triumph was 
due to more particular causes. It was due to the fact that 
the Liberals had a cause, a catchword, and the support of a 
sectional interest; the cause was Free Trade, the catchword, 
" Chinese Slavery," and the sectional interest, Trade 
Unionism. These three together converted Tory defeat 
into rout and the Liberal victory into a sweeping Pyrrhic 
triumph, for which the price was ultimately paid in the 
destruction of the party. 

At Reading, Rufus Isaacs fought mainly on the Free 
Trade issue; he declared that Home Rule was not an issue, 
and would have nothing to do with the Chinese slavery 
scare. " It is an impossibility," he said, " to deal with two 
such questions as Free Trade and Home Rule at one 
election; " while as for Chinese labour, "it could only be 
introduced if the majority of the white people of the colony 
were in favour of it. That was one of the issues upon which 

179 



r 8o LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

we fought the 1904 election and I have always held the 
view that the Liberal Government must allow the colonies 
to govern themselves, and if they choose to have recourse 
to Chinese labour, and think it good for them, they must 
decide and deal with it and this country must not interfere." 
It was typical of the moderation of his attitude, but in spite 
of it or can it be that it was because of it? he aroused 
great enthusiasm among the electorate. At this election he 
had with him not only his wife but their son Gerald too, 
now a young Etonian of sixteen, and frequently at the con 
clusion of meetings delighted supporters would drag them 
in triumph in their carriage through the streets. Once 
again the contest was spirited, but not quite so free from 
personalities, and Rufus Isaacs had to face many attacks on 
him for his religion, which were made by irresponsible 
opponents not, of course, by Mr Johnstone, who had 
succeeded Mr Keyser as Tory candidate or by any of his 
accredited supporters to which he merely replied, " When 
I came to Reading I said, as I say now, that I am a Jew 
and proud of it." The result was declared on the night 
of Saturday, January I3th, after a fortnight's hard cam 
paigning, and an excited crowd welcomed the re-election of 
Rufus Isaacs by 697 votes. " I do feel," he said, " now 
that Reading has a second time chosen me as her representa 
tive, that you mean me to remain." His prophecy was fully 
justified for he was returned at five successive elections 
once unopposed and was never rejected by the borough. 

It was a very different House of Commons to which 
Rufus Isaacs returned, Cohorts of Tories had been driven 
from the scene, and their place on the Government side was 
filled with the solid phalanx of the vast Liberal majority. 
Mr Balfour had followed his party into retirement, as a 
result of his defeat in Manchester (although a seat was soon 
found for him in the City of London), and Sir Henry 
Campbell-Bannerman reigned in his stead, with Mr Asquith 
as his chief lieutenant 5 others on the Treasury Bench were 
Mr Lloyd George, who was President of the Board of 
Trade, Mr John Burns, Home Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, 



THE TRADES DISPUTES BILL 181 

Foreign Secretary, and in lesser positions " Lulu " Harcourt, 
Sir William's son, and Mr Winston Churchill. The ad 
ministration was upheld by vast battalions of Liberals with 
the support of the solid company of their Irish Nationalist 
and Labour allies j many of the majority, as in all such 
Parliaments, had entered the House for the first time, made 
no mark and never returned. Among these, as among the 
more permanent Parliamentarians, Rufus Isaacs was popular, 
and he now had friends in high places such as Lloyd George, 
Lawson Walton, who had become Attorney-General, and 
Herbert Samuel, whose Parliamentary zeal and abilities had 
been rewarded with the office of Under-Secretary at the 
Home Office. Rufus Isaacs himself, of course, remained a 
private member, and private members have fewer chances 
of distinction in support of the Government than in Opposi 
tion 5 Government Whips have a discouraging habit of 
preferring the votes of private members to their speeches, 
and the opportunity of delivering philippics is rare indeed, 
But Rufus Isaacs had not, as we have seen, availed himself 
of such opportunities, when they lay ready to his hand; 
nor indeed had his attendance in Parliament been that of the 
aspiring politician, for his preoccupation with the Bar and a 
little ill-health at the beginning of 1905 had prevented 
him from attending more than a hundred divisions out of 
the three hundred and sixty-four which had been taken 
between the time of his return for Reading and the 1906 
election. He had, therefore, no reason either on public or 
on personal grounds to regret the changed situation in which 
he found himself, especially since, ' however large the 
majority, there were still subjects in which he was better 
versed than the bulk of his colleagues. 

Chief of these was perhaps the vexed question of the 
Trade Unions, which occupied a prominent position in the 
formidable list of projected legislation contained in the 
King's Speech at the opening of Parliament in 1906. In 
point of fact, neither the Trade Union Bill nor the other 
principal measures went quite according to Liberal plan. 
The reason for this was that behind the impressive facade 



1 82 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

the Liberal position had weaknesses, which the piled-up 
radicalism of the House of Commons could neither cure nor 
altogether conceal ; and an understanding of the political 
history of the next few years depends upon the realisation 
of the existence and nature of these weaknesses. The diffi 
culties of the Liberal position were two-fold 5 one of them 
they were eager to point to in the hopes of being able to 
gather strength to destroy it, while the other they concealed 
in so far as they recognised it, because it was organic and went 
to the roots of Party integrity. 

The first obstacle was the House of Lords, which, after 
having lain dormant through many years of Tory Govern 
ment, now resurrected its powers and its activity to make 
a very successful onslaught upon Liberal legislation. The 
Liberal Education Bill passed its second reading in the 
House of Lords, but then came in for such drastic revision 
at their lordships' hands as to be unacceptable to the majority 
in the Commons when it returned to the Lower House. 
The Plural Voting Bill was likewise strangled in the Upper 
House, and the Government deemed it wiser to relegate 
the discussion of their Licensing Bill to a later date. Thus 
there was hostility between the Lords and the Commons 
long before Mr Lloyd George's Budget of 1909, and the 
origin of the hostility had nothing to do with the finances 
of the country, which were still controlled by the impeccable 
Mr Asquith. The Liberals, both in Parliament and in the 
country, eagerly denounced this obstacle to the declared will 
of the nation, and in course of time engaged the foe in a long 
and bitter combat which resulted in the annihilation of the 
Lords as a political force. 

There was one Bill, however, which the Lords had not 
seen fit to touch, and this was the Trades Disputes Bill, 
which owed its immunity not so much to the good will of 
the Lords as to their reluctance to challenge the strength of 
organised labour. Nevertheless the Trades Disputes Bill 
did not go entirely according to preconceived plan j and the 
reason for this must be sought in the second great point of 
weakness in the great Liberal majority. The House of 



THE TRADES DISPUTES BILL 183 

Lords was a declared foe, which could be challenged and 
overthrown - y the other weakness was organic, and in the 
long run proved fatal to the Liberal Party. The truth was 
that the great Liberal majority was neither compact nor 
homogeneous. The election showed a return of 513 Minis 
terialists against an Opposition of 157, the Liberals, 
however, only numbered 377, the total being made up of 
eighty-three Irish Nationalists and fifty-three Labour mem 
bers. Of the Labour members twenty-nine acted as an 
independent party, while thirty-four were, broadly speaking, 
identified with the Liberal Party j the Labour Party were 
thus in the strong strategic position of having a " ginger 
group " within the party, and a potential cave of Adullam 
outside it on the Left. Nor were the Liberals themselves 
a really homogeneous body 3 for one thing, sectional interests 
were very strong, there being, for instance, 157 English 
nonconformists in the House, while a man like Charles 
Masterman showed that High Church Anglicanism was not 
incompatible with the finest Liberalism. But differences 
went deeper than this. The Liberal Party had not in reality 
been a unity for a very considerable time even in the days 
of Gkdstone there had been a fundamental cleavage of 
opinion between Whigs and Radicals; the defence of Free 
Trade had given the Party a rallying-point and a semblance 
of unity in 1906, but the unity did not go very deep in the 
matters of philosophy and political action. Different groups 
wanted different things, and variously interpreted the creed 
and policy of Liberalism j but all were Liberals, and conse 
quently an effort was made to satisfy by legislative action as 
many of the points of view as possible. It was because of this 
because lack of basic unity made adjustment and com 
promise necessary that the Labour wing was able to exer 
cise so strong an influence j for numerically it was still 
comparatively insignificant, and its vote was not essential 
to the Liberal majority. But it was an organised and solid 
minority, and as such its strength was considerable and its 
influence often decisive, as in the case of the Trades Disputes 
Bill. And because the Liberal Party could not effectively 



1 84 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

control or oppose this force on the Left it finally and 
inevitably succumbed to it. 

Of the four main Government Bills mentioned, Rufus 
Isaacs played a prominent part only in the Trades Disputes 
Bill. He had an intimate knowledge of Trade Union law, 
and had been counsel in the main Trade Union cases of the 
previous years. He had, as we have seen, appeared almost 
invariably for the Trade Union, and had on that account 
the best reason for being aware of the difficulties of their 
legal position after the Taff Vale judgment. He felt 
strongly, too, that the pronouncement of that decision that 
the funds of Trade Unions were liable in damages for tort 
amounted almost to a revolution, since, in view of the long 
practical immunity, it had become the settled legal conception 
that they were not so liable. The change, therefore, which 
was implied in the declaration of the law on this point by the 
Law Lords in the Taff Vale judgment was, in Rufus Isaacs' 
opinion, so far-reaching in its social consequences that it 
must be submitted to the will of the people 5 it was contrary 
to both democratic and legal principle that what was in effect 
a change in the law should be made judicially. The will of 
the people had been taken and there was no doubt that the 
result of the 1906 election had been to give the Government 
a mandate to revise the law in a sense favourable to Trade 
Unions. 

The question then merely was: what form should the 
revision take? The Royal Commission which had been 
appointed in consequence of the spate of cases, which had 
followed the Taff Vale decision, had recommended a measure 
of protection for Trade Union funds and the relaxation of 
the law of conspiracy and the law against peaceful picketing 
in the interests of the Trade Unions. In the matter of the 
law of conspiracy and peaceful picketing there was general 
agreement within the Government ranks ; and indeed the 
inconsistency of maintaining a right to strike at all together 
with the existing law on picketing is clear from Mr Justice 
Wills' remark in the Taff Vale judgment: a You cannot 
make a strike effective without doing more than is lawful." 



THE TRADES DISPUTES BILL 185 

As regards the funds, however, there was not this 
unanimity. It was clearly wrong that the contributions of 
the members of a Trade Union, which they had made in 
the prospect of certain definite and assured benefits, should 
be at the mercy of the Courts whenever the irresponsible 
acts of say, a branch official, should give cause of action 5 
and in the opinion of Rufus Isaacs, the best way to safeguard 
them was to restrict the application of the law of agency in 
favour of Trade Unions, so that their funds might be pro 
tected from the consequences of unauthorised and uncon 
trolled acts. This was without doubt the best solution of the 
problem, for it would both protect the Trade Unions from 
the consequences of unauthorised and irresponsible acts, and 
at the same time fix their liability for acts which the Union 
authorised or made its own. It is clear, too, from the 
biography of Lord Oxford and Lord Haldane's autobio 
graphy that this was the course proposed by Mr Asquith 
and Mr Haldane, who, with Lord Loreburn, the Lord 
Chancellor, were the two most eminent lawyers in the 
Cabinet. They pressed this view upon the Cabinet, but there 
were some to whom it was less attractive than the attitude 
of the Labour Party who, in the words of Mr Keir Hardie, 
" claimed in no uncertain voice absolute immunity for Trade 
Union funds from any claims for damages arising out of 
trade disputes." Unfortunately neither Rufus Isaacs nor 
either of the two Law Officers of the Crown, Sir John Law- 
son Walton and Sir William Robson, were in the Cabinet, 
and so the legal point of view was under-represented, while 
the fundamental weakness of the Liberal Party as a whole 
made it difficult for the lay section to resist the demands 
of Labour. 

In spite of this, however, a Government Bill was framed 
in accordance with the legal point of view, and was intro 
duced by Lawson Walton on March 28th. The relevant 
portion ran: " Where a Committee of a Trade Union, 
constituted as hereinafter mentioned, has been appointed to 
conduct, on behalf of the Union, a trade dispute, an action 
whereby it is sought to charge the funds of the Union with 



1 86 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

damages, in respect of any tortious act committed in con 
templation or furtherance of the trade dispute should not 
lie, unless the act was committed by the Committee or some 
person acting under their authority: 

" Provided that a person shall not be deemed to have 
acted under the authority of the Committee if the act was 
an act or one of a class of acts expressly prohibited by a 
resolution of the Committee, or the Committee by resolution 
expressly repudiate the act as soon as it is brought to their 
knowledge." The passage may not be a masterpiece of 
elegant prose, but it constituted a straightforward piece of 
legislation which would admirably have combined the pro 
tection of Trade Union funds with the safeguarding of 
society. It was very far from recommending itself, how 
ever, to the Labour eleirient and to that large body of 
Liberals who had committed themselves in their constitu 
encies to the advocacy and support of extreme legislation, 
and they condemned it in consequence as " incomprehen 
sible." The Labour Party accordingly pressed on with the 
second reading of their own Bill to give Trade Union funds 
a complete immunity it had been introduced originally on 
February 22nd as a Private Members' Bill, by right of 
ballot and Campbell-Bannerman, who was not a lawyer, 
thought it best in the circumstances to adopt the Labour 
proposals. He, therefore, advised the House, as Prime 
Minister, to pass the second reading of the Bill, which they 
loyally did by a majority of 414 to 66, but not before they 
had undergone the raking fire of F. E. Smith's sarcasm. 
" The House, the Party, and the country asked the Govern 
ment for a lead, and the Government put up the Attorney 
to say that they were better at following ... I congratulate 
the honourable member for Merthyr Tydvil (Keir Hardie) 
on the captures he has made on the Front Bench. He may 
say * The Treasury Bench is my washpot and over the 
Attorney-General have I cast out my shoe. 5 " 

But, despite the taunts of the Prince Rupert of the Tories, 
complete immunity had become the policy of the Govern 
ment, and Asquith, Haldane, Rufus Isaacs and the rest 



THE TRADES DISPUTES BILL 187 

accepted it. Complete immunity was the will of their 
party and the decree of their leader; and it may be that the 
dangers of such a policy did not loom so large as the 
necessity of bringing in some sort of legislation to rescue the 
Trade Unions from the admittedly inequitable position in 
which the Taff Vale judgment had placed them, for it 
might seem in the conditions of the time as if Campbell- 
Bannerman spoke truly when he said that there was in the 
two policies " not a difference of object but of method." 
And, in addition to this, it was possible for those who 
believed in the principle of altering the law in favour of the 
Trade Unions but would have preferred a less drastic 
measure to do something in Committee to keep the details 
of the Bill on the right road. But nevertheless, it was 
unfortunate that the Liberal Government was compelled to 
legislate in accordance with the views of the Trade Unions 
themselves, rather than with those of the lawyers of the 
party, whose vision was enlarged by the contemplation of 
the effect of the measure on the community as a whole. The 
essential defect of the Trades Disputes Act, as finally passed 
into law, was that at a single bound it placed the Trade 
Unions outside the ordinary law in respect of civil liability, 
and gave them a privileged position as against other liti 
gants. It was this privileged position, this feeling that they 
were outside, if not above, the ordinary courses of the law 
a position and a feeling which they would not have had if 
Campbell-Bannerman had stood firm, or the rank and file 
been less deeply committed which encouraged the Trade 
Unions to challenge the community in 1926 and to force 
the issue of the General Strike. 

On April 25th, the Solicitor-General, in the absence of 
Lawson Walton, introduced the new Government measure, 
which now approximated to Keir Hardie's original Bill. 
Rufus Isaacs, who in view of his experience was recognised 
as a leading authority in his party on the subject, was 
selected to follow the Leader of the Opposition. " I 
thought," he said, " as the right honourable gentleman was 
speaking that he was going to accuse the Government of 



1 88 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

having unsettled convictions. There is no one in this 
House who has a right to speak with greater authority on 
that subject." And he went on to twit Mr Balfour with 
the indecisiveness of the preceding regime on the subject of 
Protection. He then gave it as his opinion that the effect 
of the Bill would not be to multiply the number of strikes 5 
but the main point of his speech was his contention, already 
referred to, that the opinion of the vast majority of lawyers, 
who had any connection with Trade Unions and the unani 
mous opinion of the Court of Appeal in the Taff Vale case 
in addition had been that Trade Unions could not be sued 
and that the decision of the House of Lords had virtually 
amounted to a change in the law. Such a change must have 
the sanction of the people of the country, and the election 
had proved that there was no such sanction; it was now, 
therefore, for Parliament to legislate in accordance with the 
declared will of the people, and to remove them from the 
unfair position to which the Taff Vale decision had relegated 
them. 

The Committee stage of the Bill occupied a great deal of 
Rufus Isaacs' parliamentary time that summer and, indeed, 
there is more time spent upstairs in Committee and a more 
effective direction given to legislation there than people 
sometimes realise. He made contributions on amendments 
concerning picketing and inducement to breach of contract, 
while his personal knowledge of the subject was often of 
service to the Committee. Thus, when Mr F. E. Smith and 
Sir William Robson entered into argument about the facts 
of the case of Linaker v. Pilcher, Rufus Isaacs intervened 
and explained themj for he had been leading counsel in the 
case in 1901. One of his most valuable interventions in the 
Committee stage was his opposition to an amendment of Sir 
Charles Dilke, which would have given the Trade Unions 
a complete immunity in respect of any unlawful acts which 
they might commit, in addition to the immunity from the 
recovery of damages out of their funds, which the Bill had 
already given. " The result would be that the Trade Unions 
would be able to commit unlawful acts if they were so 



THE TRADES DISPUTES BILL 189 

minded and no Court would be able to restrain them, 
although they might have expressed their intention of com 
mitting such acts, and mean to carry this intention into effect. 
I do not for a moment believe that the representatives of 
the Trade Unions claim any such immunity." His decisive 
stand carried the day and Sir Charles Dilke withdrew an 
amendment which would have greatly aggravated the less 
satisfactory features of the Bill. He spoke again on the 
Report stage and on the Lord's Amendments^ and here 
again his contributions were luminous and well-informed 5 
and by the time the measure finally became law, it had 
absorbed a considerable proportion of the Parliamentary 
efforts of Rufus Isaacs. 



CHAPTER XIV 



DIVORCE CASE 

IN May of 1907, Rufus Isaacs figured once again as 
leading counsel in a cause celebre in the Divorce Court. 
The " Gaiety Girl Divorce Case," as the case of Bryce <v. 
Bryce and Pape was popularly known at the time, was less 
rich in aristocratic names than the Hartopp case, but collected 
an equally brilliant array of counsel. For besides Rufus 
Isaacs, there were Sir Edward Carson, Mr Henry Duke, and 
Mr Barnard, while the case was tried before Mr Justice 
Bargrave Deane, who had been counsel in the Hartopp case 
and had since been promoted to the Bench. The fall of the 
Conservative Government had sent Carson simultaneously 
into Opposition and private practice, and in both he was 
supremely effective ; and in the greatest cases in which Rufus 
Isaacs figured in this last period of his career as an advocate, 
Carson was his antagonist. In the case of Bryce v. Bryce 
and Pape they were in that sort of unofficial alliance which 
generally exists between counsel for the respondent and 
counsel for the co-respondent in divorce cases 5 but generally 
they were, of course, in conflict. There were the two great 
newspaper libel actions, Lever v. The Daily Mail and 
Cadbury v. The Evening Standard-, there was the prosecu 
tion of Sievier, and the Archer-Shee case. In all these cases 
Rufus Isaacs and Carson were matched against each other, 
and their contests began to assume for the public the measure 
of excitement afforded by great sporting events. The zest 
with which their contests were watched was in part due to 
the supreme position occupied by the pair at the Bar and 
partly due to the fact that, while they had some qualities of 
advocacy in common, there was sufficient dissimilarity of 
equipment and method to point the contest and make inter- 

190 



GAIETY GIRL DIVORCE CASE 191 

esting comparison. It is an over-simplification of the issue to 
use analogies like the bludgeon and the rapier, for these 
obscure the real line of distinction. In that they were both 
relentless and penetrative in cross-examination, lucid in ex 
position, and expert in argument, Rufus Isaacs and Carson 
had equipment not wholly dissimilar; but there were real 
differences. Carson had a measure of eloquence though it 
was not so much the polished, literary eloquence of the 
scholar as a shrewd, forceful eloquence, reinforced by an 
enormous physique and an Irish brogue and a native wit 
which Rufus Isaacs could not rival ; but he, in his turn, had 
a faculty for the mastering and memorisation of intricate 
facts and figures, combined with a discretion in handling 
judge and jury and a tactical brilliance in the conduct of a 
case, which neither his great rival nor perhaps any other 
advocate has ever equalled. The difference in equipment 
reflects a difference in personality. Carson was dominating 
and masterful, while Rufus Isaacs was suave and courteous. 
Carson thundered, while Rufus Isaacs coaxed 5 Carson 
stormed, while Rufus Isaacs suggested. The keenness 
apparent in Rufus Isaacs was in Carson cloaked by brus- 
querie; the force apparent in Carson, was in Rufus Isaacs 
cloaked by suavity. But, fundamentally, Rufus Isaacs could 
concede little to Carson in acumen, and his own forcefulness 
was not so much behind that of Carson. Both had a splendid 
and comprehensive array of forensic weapons, and both were 
expert in their use 5 that alone could have given them their 
great position. They differed in many things, but both 
alike had that aggregation of qualities, that makes not the 
great lawyer or the great orator, but something that partakes 
of both and is in the legal world perhaps greater than 
either, the great man of the Courts. The comparison 
between them is not concerned with excelling $ it is a question 
rather of emphasis, 

The " Gaiety Girl Divorce Case " found these two great 
advocates, who during Carson's term of office had been 
opposed in the Criminal Courts in such cases as the Doctor 
Krause prosecution and the Slater Agency case, in as near 



192 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

a forensic alliance as they were ever in. The case got its 
popular name because Mrs Bryce was Mabel Duncan, the 
former Gaiety girl. Her parents were people of some 
social position 5 indeed her father, who had been at Eton 
and Cambridge, had been a rich man. Unfortunately, while 
Mabel was still a girl, her father had disappeared 5 this 
might have been forgiven him, but he was inconsiderate 
enough to leave no money behind, and so Mabel, who was 
a pretty, talented girl, took to the musical comedy stage. 
While still only seventeen, she met Francis Bryce, the eldest 
son of a Devonshire family of good position, who was at 
that time coaching for the Army. He fell in love with her, 
and, being a young man of honourable intentions, wanted 
to marry her. In this he was opposed by his parents, but, 
being a determined as well as an honourable young man, 
he threw up his commission in the Army, and went onto 
the Stock Exchange where, after an initial struggle, he 
attained a position which justified him in marrying inde 
pendently of his parents 7 consent. And married they were 
on January I4th, 1898, at the Paddington Registry Office. 
Their courage and independence won its reward, for Francis 
Bryce's father befriended the young couple and under his 
benign influence the family duly received Mabel Bryce into 
its corporate bosom. 

Here one could have wished the story to end, with young 
love installed in Hyde Park Mansions, and accepted in 
Devonshire. But, unhappily for marital felicity, they 
attended in the summer of 1905 Commemoration Week in 
Oxford, where they met Harold Pape, a rich and attractive 
young man from Christ Church, who promptly as is often 
the way of young men with married women slightly older 
than themselves fell in love with Mabel Bryce, and decided 
to see more of her. Consequently the Bryces came to stay 
at Harold Pape's father's deer-shoot in Scotland, and later, 
while Bryce was away at work, Mabel would go to race- 
meetings with Harold Pape, who was himself an accomp 
lished gentleman-rider. In January of 1906, they all went 
to the County Ball at Exeter, where Harold spent most of 



GAIETY GIRL DIVORCE CASE 193 

the evening with Mabel, while Francis was very attentive 
to a young lady whose identity was to be hidden from a 
curious public under the anonymity of " Miss A." and in the 
Spring the four of them went to stay with Papers father in 
Monte Carlo. Later on, in July, Bryce saw his mother in 
Paris, who told him that people were talking of a liaison 
between Mabel and Harold Pape and advised him to see 
Sir George Lewis. So', like countless others in similar 
situation, he consulted Sir George, and then engaged 
detectives to watch the suspected pair. On July 2ist, when 
her husband was away, Mabel Bryce went down to stay with 
her friends Doctor and Mrs Ellison at Windsor j with her 
went Miss Kindersley, but on their arrival they found the 
accommodation at the Ellisons 3 rather limited, and so they 
went to the White Hart Hotel near-by. Here Harold Pape 
had taken the best room, but he gave it up to Mabel, taking 
a smaller one for himself. In August Mabel again went to 
stay with the Ellisons this time at Bembridge, where they 
Were on holiday and again Harold Pape stayed in a hotel 
in the vicinity, the Spithead Hotel. Again,- too, they were 
shadowed by the detectives, who reported, amongst other 
things, that one afternoon Harold Pape had been in the 
house with her, while she changed her dress, at a time when 
the Ellisons were out. v Finally on August 24th, Bryce 
discovered amongst his wife's things a bundle of letters 
from Mr Pape, and he decided to institute proceedings for 
divorce. He shut up his house, turned his wife's things 
out, and refused to see her or hear a word in explanation. 
Meanwhile his solicitors wrote to Mr Pape saying that " he 
only trusts that though you have behaved to him in the 
way that you have, you will at all events adopt the only 
honourable course towards his wife, when the marriage has 
been dissolved, particularly in view of the great professions 
of love which you have made to hen" 

It turned out, however, that Mabel Bryce wished to 
remain Mabel Bryce, and Harold Pape to remain a bachelor 5 
they denied the charge of adultery, and Harold Pape in 
his pleadings added charges of connivance and conduct 



194- LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

conducing on the part of Francis Bryce. In the course of 
the trial, however, the plea of connivance was withdrawn. 
Mr Bryce, for whom Mr Henry Duke and Mr Barnard 
appeared, really relied, to establish his case, on the night 
spent at the White Hart at Windsor, on the episode at 
Bembridge, on the evidence of William Amos, a former 
chauffeur of the Bryces, that he had seen Mabel Bryce and 
Pape " kissing and cuddling like lovers " during the visit 
to Scotland, and on Pape's letters. The contention was that 
these letters and their conduct proved the existence of a 
guilty affection, and the various visits provided opportunities 
for its indulgence j the two together were sufficient to ask 
the jury to infer adultery. Rufus Isaacs and Carson, how 
ever, maintained that Amos' evidence was imaginative 
nonsense, and Pape's letters were those of a young man in 
love, but not of an adulterer, while the episodes at Windsor 
and at Bembridge could be explained on quite ordinary 
grounds without reference to adultery. At Windsor, Mabel 
Bryce had gone to the White Hart merely so as not to 
inconvenience the Ellisons j if she had wanted to commit 
adultery, she would have stayed in London, since her hus 
band had been away on a visit to his mother that week-end. 
As to Bembridge, Pape had made two visits, wiring from 
London in the interval to ask if it was all right for him 
to return. The suggestion for the petitioner was that his 
return had depended on whether Bryce was coming to 
Bembridge or not; Rufus Isaacs, however, contended that 
Pape's action in inquiring was merely one of courtesy, arising 
from a natural desire not to be an infliction on the Ellisons, 
and in point of fact Mabel Bryce's reply to him that it 
would be all right for him to return had been despatched 
before she heard definitely that her husband was not coming. 
The issue, therefore, depended to a certain extent on the 
interpretation of conduct, and the respondent's case was 
hardly assisted in this respect by the multitude of Harold 
Pape's love-letters, which were before the Court. Some of 
these were what he called " riddle letters," that is, written 
in an elementary code, which consisted of inserting the letters 



GAIETY GIRL DIVORCE CASE 195 

"ap" into words j thus "yapou sapaid yapou caparaped 
fapor mape$ dapou yapou rapeallapy" meant "you said 
you cared for me; do you really? " and so on. One letter 
was headed " Friday night/ 7 and read: " I shall not be able 
to sleep for some time if I go to bed, so I am writing to you 
even if I don't give you this letter in the morning 5 it some 
how makes me feel happy to write to you. I can't tell you 
what my feelings are to-night. I only know I love you, 
I love you, and can't bear to think you are going away from 
me to-morrow. Daparlaping apone, do you really care for 
me a little? ... I do feel I could really love you; you are 
so like what I always thought a woman ought to be. It Is 
no passing fancy or passion because I am awfully fond of you 
in every way; you are such a great friend and I love just to 
talk to you. I feel like a thief in the night by all the 
laws of everything, including honour, I ought to have 
stopped myself caring for you, ought never to have told 
you that I loved you, or shown it. I have, I think, only 
one excuse I love you so much, and because I love you so 
much I am prepared to give you up entirely if you think 
it would be better for your happiness, or if you think it 
dishonourable for us to love each other. I love you so that 
I could forget everything except that I love you." Another 
letter said: " I do so wish you were here to-night. I want 
you awfully. I will try my best to stay in London over 
Sunday, but I cannot promise unless I get a good oppor 
tunity, it would be so foolish ... I want to be in London 
with you over Sunday awfully . . . Good-night, my own 
darling." These are fair specimens of the letters, which were 
read by Henry Duke on the opening day of the trial* That 
they were love letters of a fervent sort at any rat^ for a 
young man who admittedly found writing difficult is clear $ 
but a careful reading of them will show that there is nothing 
in them to necessitate an inference of adultery. Indeed 
there are certain passages such as "you are such a great 
friend and I love just to talk to you," and " I love you so 
much that I am prepared to give you up entirely," which 
suggest an honourable and platonic relationship. 



196 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

The case was opened by Mr Duke on May 5th, who read 
the letters at length, and interspersed the narrative with 
harsh comments on Pape, whom he represented as the worst 
type of idle and dissolute " man about town." On the 
second day, he called Bryce, who denied that he had left 
his wife alone with Pape, or that he had himself been too 
intimate with " Miss A."j " Miss A." had stayed with them 
in Cadogan Gardens for a fortnight in June of 1906, and 
there had been two week-end parties to Sonning, consisting 
of himself and his wife, Pape and " Miss A." Rufus Isaacs 
directed his cross-examination of Bryce to his relations with 
" Miss A." with a view to proving that Mabel Bryce was 
jealous of " Miss A," and that it was her husband's familiar 
ity with " Miss A." which was the chief source of trouble 
between them; he was anxious to show, too, that Bryce's 
desire to be with " Miss A." led him to throw his wife in 
Pape's company. But Bryce denied this and said that his 
wife had always given him to understand that she got bored 
with Harold Pape. 

" So that," replied Rufus Isaacs, " was why he was asked 
so often to meet her! Did you not know that she was fond 
of his society? " 

"No." 

"And was out with her late at night in punts on the 
river? " 

" Quite an ordinary thing at Maidenhead." 

" I will not discuss the habits of Maidenhead with you," 
concluded Rufus Isaacs drily. 

Bryce also came off badly in his cross-examination with 
Carson, who questioned him as to the "pairing-off" at 
Sonning and in cabs and so on, especially as he was one of 
those irritating people in whom convention has taken such 
deep root that they describe their conduct by reference to 
axiomatic general propositions. Thus when Carson suggested 
that they might all have gone to the theatre together in a 
four-wheeler, instead of pairing-off, he said in a shocked 
voice: 

" No one ever goes in a four-wheeler to the theatre," 



GAIETY GIRL DIVORCE CASE 19? 

" Oh well/' replied Carson, with a deepening of the Irish 
brogue, " I'm perhaps out of date myself, 37 

Similarly Bryce kept on saying that he had done things 
"in the ordinary way 5 " it was "in the ordinary way" 
that he had gone only a mile in his punt in nine hours, 
and he had afforded his wife the same protection " as any 
husband would." 

" I hope," observed Carson, " that that will not be taken 
as dogmatic." Bryce said that he loved his wife at this 
period, not perhaps as in the first year of his married life, 
but " in the ordinary way." 

" Everything you do seems to be in the ordinary way," 
said Carson. 

" Yes, because all these incidents are all very ordinary 
ones," replied Bryce 5 " I followed my mother's advice and 
went to a solicitor -in July." 

" You are thirty years of age and she advised you to go 
to Sir George Lewis in the ordinary way, and you went 
in the ordinary way? " said Carson, and his summary was 
received in loud laughter. 

There followed a sharp exchange between Carson and 
Duke, for neither had quite the suavity of Rufus Isaacs. 
Carson had followed up his previous question by asking: 

" That was on July 26th? " 

" August," corrected Henry Duke 5 and then, looking at 
his brief, he added: " No, I see you are right." 

" I am glad," replied Carson sarcastically, " that I am 
right for once." 

" It is a phenomenon no doubt," rejoined Henry Duke 
in the same tone. 

" Miss A." succeeded Bryce in the witness-box, and was 
the object of many curious glances in Court. She was a 
pretty girl of nineteen, and many speculated as to her 
identity j but she was a young girl of good family and it 
would have done her no good to be associated with the 
case. Consequently all parties agreed to give her the pro 
tection of anonymity. 

Rufus Isaacs cross-examined her as to the " pairing-off," 



198 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

to which she replied that Bryce had shown no more liking 
for her than for any other friend. 

" But we have heard you spent nine hours covering a 
mile on the river/' objected Rufus Isaacs. 

" Have you ever been in a punt, Mr Isaacs? " asked the 
Judge., amid laughter. 

" Yes/' replied Rufus Isaacs, smiling, " but " 

" Now don't make any confessions," said Duke. 

" I am not going to be tempted to do so," he replied, 
" even by my Lord. I am older." 

The witness proved to be " unable to remember " many 
things, and this gave Carson an opportunity of outflanking 
her. 

" Come now," he said, " can't you remember? Are you 
clever? " 

" No," she replied, " I have a bad memory." 

" Then you musn't be offended," said Carson, " If I 
venture to say I do not agree with you." 

The next witness was William Amos, the chauffeur, who 
said that in August, 1905, he had seen Mabel Bryce and 
Pape " kissing and cuddling like lovers " on the road near 
Foich. He was not shocked as he had often seen such things 
before. 

" Where? asked Carson. 

" Everywhere," replied the much-travelled young man; 
" in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales." 

" Oh please leave Ireland out, Mr Chauffeur," said 
Carson, and the Court laughed. " Is cuddling and kissing, 
in your experience, an epidemic all over the United King 
dom? " he continued, and the laughter broke out again. 

Amos said that he could not fix the date, but remembered 
that he had gone out to look for white heather to send 
away. 

" To a lady? " inquired Carson. " Did you get any? 
Come now, that is an awkward question? " 

The chauffeur, however, encouraged by the success which 
he seemed to be having in the witness-box, was in no mood 
to be bantered by Carson, 



GAIETY GIRL DIVORCE CASE 199 

" What business is it of yours? " he retorted pertly. 
In a moment he regretted his insolence, for Carson drooped 
his great height and leant forward with his chin projecting 
angularly like a danger signal, he fixed Amos with his 
menacing glare, at which witnesses, counsel, Cabinet 
Ministers and the Bench itself had learnt to tremble, and 
addressed him: 

" Will you say that again just in the same tone? " 
It was a simple question, but Amos crumpled, " I did 
find some, and sent it away, too," he replied with a mixture 
of humility and jocular pride, and a very evident desire 
not to offend his formidable antagonist again. 

The cross-examination affords in its details an interesting 
comparison between Carson's methods and those of Rufus 
Isaacs. Rufus Isaacs would not have been able to annihilate 
a hostile or insolent witness with the speed and decisiveness 
with which Carson dealt with Amos as indeed no other 
counsel could have done for his appearance, though im 
pressive, lacked the formidable quality which is peculiarly 
Carson's. But, if Rufus Isaacs could not quell opposition 
so easily, he did not so readily evoke it. He would never, 
for instance, have addressed a witness as " Mr Chauffeur-, " 
he treated witnesses with invariable respect and, not having 
Carson's wit, was rarely tempted to make jokes at their 
expense. Nor would he have had the brush with Henry 
Duke that Carson had; indeed in the whole course of his 
long forensic career, I have found not a single instance of his 
having had a serious clash in Court, either with counsel, 
witness, or judge. Such a phenomenon was not due to 
weakness with opposition or subservience to the Bench, any 
more than the outbursts of Carson and Marshall Hall were 
due to truculence; indeed a notable instance of the way in 
which he handled the Bench is provided in his final speech 
in this very trial. It was due to his own tact, resilience and 
self-discipline, which prevented him from provoking other 
people, and to his flair for handling people and situations; 
for these qualities were as much the hall mark of Rufus 
Isaacs as that formidable personality was of Edward Carson. 



200 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

There were several other witnesses before Rufus Isaacs 
opened the case for the respondent, but -only Hoare and 
Newton, the private detectives, were really important. 
They gave evidence of watching Mabel Bryce and Pape 
at Bembridge in August, but Rufus Isaacs' searching cross- 
examination left their evidence very battered. Hoare said 
that his note-book did not show how every five minutes of 
his time was occupied, but it practically showed it. 

" If you say it practically does so, that means it really 
does not? " 

<c My colleague and I only relieved each other for refresh 
ment, and we did not want much food on a hot day." 

" But refreshment on a hot day does not necessarily mean 
food," said Rufus Isaacs sagely. 

Later the witness said: 

" On another occasion I saw them walking in Love's End 
Lane." 

" Whom does that refer to? " inquired Rufus Isaacs. 

u The respondent, the co-respondent and Mrs Ellison," 
replied the witness. 

u So there were three of them. But do you realise that 
it is on this sort of evidence that adultery is alleged? " 

" Not by me, sir," replied the man apologetically. 

When Rufus Isaacs opened his case, he had no more 
attentive listener than his client, whose eyes filled with 
tears as she looked pathetically at her husband's stern and 
unrelenting face. But the unfriendly demeanour of Mr 
Bryce was hardly likely to affect Rufus Isaacs, who pointed 
out that not a single witness had been called to show that 
Mrs Bryce had committed adultery, except perhaps the 
chauffeur, the value of whose evidence the jury could judge 
for themselves. The life led by the quartet had been an 
extraordinary one 5 that they knew from Bryce's own evi 
dence. But he did not suggest that Bryce had committed 
adultery with " Miss A." in these circumstances, and so why 
from the same facts should the jury be asked to infer 
adultery between Mrs Bryce and Harold Pape. It was, of 
course, foolish of Mrs Bryce to receive those letters from 



GAIETY GIRL DIVORCE CASE 201 

" an enamoured and foolish young man; " but what might 
be a fault was not on that account a crime. She was probably 
flattered by his attentions and, having the fullest confidence 
in herself, failed to realise her strict duty to her husband. 
But, when this grave charge was made against her, she had 
been denied by her husband even that opportunity of ex 
planation which is afforded to every criminal. And yet 
what was there to substantiate the charge? Not a single 
servant had been called to prove adultery, and the detectives' 
evidence such as it was, with its contradictions and inade 
quacies was in her favour, since they could depose to no 
single act of familiarity. 

After Carson had also addressed the Court, Rufus Isaacs 
called his client, who entered the box, her white dress 
accentuating her careworn appearance. She was given a 
seat in the box, however, and answering Rufus Isaacs' 
questions clearly and smilingly, made a good impression on 
the jury. At the end of her examination, she faced her 
great ordeal with Duke's cross-examination, which lasted 
for eight hours and contained two thousand three hundred 
questions. He questioned her closely as to her relations 
with Pape, her tiffs with him and so on, and often she had 
to answer " I don't remember," " I dare say," " More or 
less, I suppose." 

" When Mr Pape wrote c I want you to-night awfully, 
awfully,' what did you understand? " asked Mr Duke, 

" I thought he wished me to be with him." 

" But did you not understand by that something 
improper? " interposed Bargrave Deane. 

" No, my lord 5 he so often put into his letters * I wish 
you were here.' " 

" But c to-night ' ? " said the Judge testily. " You are 
a married woman and understand these things." 

" I looked upon the words as a figure of speech," she 
replied. 

Duke asked her what she thought the end of her relation 
ship with Pape would be, and she said that Pape knew that 
she was jealous of her husband. 



202 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

"Then in February was the position this you were 
jealous upon the supposition that Mr Pape wrote love 
letters to another lady, and jealous of your husband because 
he was attracted by c Miss A.' ? Can you be jealous of two 
people at once, and does not jealousy arise from love? " 

The question perhaps goes rather deep for a question 
from counsel to witness, but Mrs Bryce, although she had 
not the illuminating divorce-court experience of the future 
Lord Merrivale, answered wisely and truly: cc That is a 
matter of disposition. I was very annoyed with my husband 
and very jealous of him." 

This was on the morning of May i6th, her third day in 
the box, and the strain and exhaustion were clearly telling 
on her. Shortly before noon she fainted, and was carried 
out of Court, sobbing unrestrainedly 5 half an hour later 
she returned, very pale, to resume cross-examination, but 
towards the end of the day her voice became very emotional 
and, leaning back helplessly in the box, she said weakly, " I 
forget what Pm talking about, I forget what Pm talking 
about." The Court adjourned, and as Mrs Bryce left the 
box, she fell fainting into the arms of a friend. Next 
morning, however, she was bright and well once more, and 
the cross-examination was concluded. She had not perhaps 
proved a " good witness," but she had emerged from the 
box in a very fair position. If a man breaks down in the 
witness box, his case is almost certainly lost; but this by no 
means applies in the case of a woman. Indeed it is often 
the most effective thing she can do, for it shows a proper 
delicacy of feeling, and makes or, at any rate, did in the 
time of exclusively male juries an immediate appeal to 
the chivalry of the jury 5 and if, in addition, she can reappear 
looking radiant, there is an aesthetic appeal by contrast to 
reinforce further her position. 

It was not to be expected that Harold Pape would make 
quite such a good impression, but nevertheless his slim, 
athletic-looking figure and boyish face hardly bespoke the 
monster of iniquity which Henry Duke had represented him 
to be. He admitted that he had been in love with Mrs 



GAIETY GIRL DIVORCE CASE 203 

Bryce, and had tried to hide his affections because he felt it 
to be dishonourable, but he strenuously denied adultery. 
But perhaps the greatest assistance to Rufus Isaacs' case came 
from the Ellisons, for Mrs Ellison described how she had 
come into Court as a hostile witness, but now that she had 
heard the evidence, she reverted to her belief in Mrs Bryce's 
innocence, in which she had only been shaken because, 
knowing Bryce as an honourable man, she did not suppose 
that he would bring proceedings against his wife without 
due cause. She was, however, quite certain that Mrs Bryce 
had not committed misconduct at Bembridge, and she had 
come forward as a woman to help another woman, in spite 
of the efforts that had been made to keep her from the box. 
There was one more interesting witness for the defence in 
the person of Sir Alfred Fripp, the famous surgeon, who 
said that he had attended Harold Pape from November, 
1905, to July 2,6th, 1906, when he underwent an operation 
for the distressing complaint of haemorrhoids, which had 
necessitated the wearing of bandages until September jth. 
It was, therefore, improbable, though not impossible, for 
him to have committed adultery on August 2ist the date 
at which he was alleged to have done so at Bembridge. 

It was with the support of all these varied sorts of evi 
dence to assist his interpretation of the conduct of the parties 
that Rufus Isaacs rose to make his final speech to the jury 
on May 3ist If his first speech had won the graceful 
tribute of tears from his fair client, this speech won the still 
more emphatic, if less graceful, tribute of hysteria. For so 
great was his eloquence that Mrs Bryce broke down and 
sobbed like a child, and her frail body swayed helplessly to 
and fro until it was finally engulfed in a fit of uncontrolled 
hysteria ; indeed, it was not until after lunch that she 
regained her composure. In the circumstances it was per- 
haps hardly surprising that Rufus Isaacs started his speech 
with a reference to the ordeal which his client had undergone 
in her lengthy cross-examination; but he went on: " I still 
desire to say nothing which may imperil the chances of a 
reunion between these parties, for I still hope that that is 



204 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

possible j but I cannot* help saying that things might have 
been different if only Mr Bryce had been guided more by 
those human instincts of kindness which should be only 
natural in a husband towards his wife. If only Mr Bryce 
had not jumped to conclusions, if only he had not rushed off 
to his solicitors and detectives, if only he had given his wife 
one chance to explain, as was surely only reasonable, as she 
was entitled to, then indeed we might have been saved this 
lengthy trial." 

He then proceeded to a consideration of the facts. There 
were none of those incidents of familiarity, noticed by friends 
and servants, which were usual in this type of case, always 
excepting the inaccurate evidence of that " inventive genius," 
Amos. Two specific charges there were, of adultery at 
Windsor and at Bembridge. The Windsor charge was 
absurd, for if Mrs Bryce had wished to commit adultery, 
she could have done so more easily and unostentatiously by 
remaining in London, as her husband was away. As to 
Bembridge, the petitioner's sheet-anchor was the afternoon 
of August 23rd, when Mrs Bryce and Pape had been alone 
in the cottage for a time in the absence of the Ellisons and 
for ten minutes in the drawing-room j but during this time 
Powell, the maid, and Mrs Fry, the landlady, had been in 
the house, and most of the time was spent by Mrs Bryce in 
changing her hat and gown & most important business, as 
it was regatta day, the great day, at Bembridge. That was the 
afternoon, on which the petitioner relied most strongly ; and 
it amounted to no more than that. This was all that Bryce's 
detectives had been able to discover, and in exchange for it, 
" whatever the result of this case, Mr Bryce cannot but look 
back with shame upon his conduct at that time. He did not 
shrink from causing his wife to be watched at the houses 
of friends where both he and she were honoured guests." 
Much of Mrs Bryce's conduct was wrong and unjustifiable. 
In the matter of the letters for instance; but the letters were 
no conclusive test of the case, as it was not suggested that 
adultery was taking place at the time when the letters were 
passing. Further, though the letters showed that the writer 



GAIETY GIRL DIVORCE CASE 205 

was in love with Mrs Bryce, they also seemed to show that 
the love was unrequited and the desire unsatisfied. The 
jury must judge Mrs Bryce's conduct in the light of their 
knowledge of women. " Many women," he said, " especi 
ally young and pretty ones, like the attention of a young man 
to go^about with them and act as their escort 5 but it would 
be doing the sex a grave wrong to infer from such attention 
that a woman has forfeited her right to her good name and 
her position in the world Mr Bryce jumped to that con 
clusion. Why did he not instead make an effort to prevent 
his wife from going, as he thought she was, to her doom? 
The only manly thing to have done would have been to ask 
his wife to drop her friendship with Pape and order Pape 
out of the house." A notable speech, which had skilfully 
mingled an exhausting analysis of the facts with the appeal 
ad misericordiam, ended with a plea that Mrs Bryce had 
already suffered sufficiently for her indiscretion and that it 
might not yet be too late for a reconciliation between the 
parties. 

Rufus Isaacs' speech, which had occupied nearly five 
hours on the thirteenth day of the trial, had covered the 
ground thoroughly and effectively, and Carson, who 
followed, said that after "the eloquent and exhaustive 
speech of my friend, Mr Isaacs," he did not intend to 
rehearse the whole matter. This was a wise decision for the 
case had already been attractively presented by Rufus Isaacs, 
who was representing a client who would excite more 
sympathy in the jury than could Harold Pape. Similarly 
Carson referred in his speech primarily to the effects which 
an adverse verdict would have on Mrs Bryce rather than on 
his own client, since a verdict for her would entail a verdict 
for him as well. He did not defend Pape's conduct, " but," 
he said, " all sentiment and decency do not die because a 
young man of twenty-four has the misfortune to fall in love 
with a young and pretty married woman." The peroration 
of his speech was an appeal for Rufus Isaacs* client: " As 
Mr Pape wrote these letters, so I beg you to look on them 
as only Mr Pape's acts acts which he bitterly regrets. 



206 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

Award him censure for his acts, but do not let these letters 
weigh in the scales of justice against a woman who was only 
the recipient of them, and against whom there is not one 
act or gesture in evidence that she has been other than a 
faithful wife to him who is now trying to get rid of her." 

Carson's speech, which had lasted an hour and three- 
quarters, was followed by a lengthy reply on the whole case 
by Henry Duke, in the course of which he said that he had 
never heard a finer demonstration of the art of the advocate 
than that given by Rufus Isaacs. The summing up was 
indeterminate and the jury were absent for nearly an hour 
and a half. On their return, Mrs Bryce looked anxiously 
at the foreman, who declared that the jury had found that 
no adultery had been committed, " though the conduct of 
the co-respondent, as disclosed in this case, is deserving of 
the severest censure." There was an outburst of applause 
in Court, prompted, in the case of the majority, by the 
verdict rather than by the opinion of Harold Pape's conduct; 
but the applause was instantly suppressed and all eyes turned 
on Mrs Bryce. For she had fainted for the third and last 
time in the trial. 

The case is a perfect example of the type of case which 
should never, in the interests of the parties, have come into 
Court at all. The private lives of the three were exposed 
to the full glare of publicity, and survived the exposure 
no better than would most. This does not mean that these 
lives were shown to be in any way immoral; it merely 
means that a jealous husband, employing detectives to track 
his wife, and a young lover, writing " riddle letters " in a 
code which would not deceive a child, are scarcely objects to 
command public respect. And the fifteen days of undesirable 
publicity were purchased at a cost of 15,000; for the four 
leading counsel had briefs marked at a hundred and fifty 
guineas with refreshers of a hundred guineas each a day, 
while there were in addition the various other sources of 
expenditure. (Counsel's fees in a cause celebre are normally 
at a very rough estimate about half the total costs.) But 
for those whose interest in the case is less personal than that 



GAIETY GIRL DIVORCE CASE 207 

of the protagonists, there is no need to regret the case, for 
it provides, in addition to its intrinsic interest, an interesting 
comparison of the methods of Rufus Isaacs and Carson in 
handling the same material ; for this case, being practically 
the only one in which they were engaged in alliance, is in 
some respects more instructive than the various cases in which 
they appeared in opposition, and were consequently con 
cerned with different interpretations of the facts. Rufus 
Isaacs' speech, too, affords a good instance of his skill in 
handling the Bench 5 he had said to the jury, " you must be 
satisfied that adultery has in fact been committed it is not 
enough to be satisfied that there was an opportunity for it; 
you must be satisfied that they took the opportunity." The 
ensuing dialogue speaks for itself. 

" That is not quite correct. I shall leave two questions 
to the jury first, was there a guilty willingness, a guilty 
desire between these parties, that is between both of them, 
and, secondly, was there opportunity? If these two were 
present, the jury may infer that adultery has taken place." 

" But the jury must be satisfied that adultery has taken 
place." 

" No: you go too far. You suggest that the jury must 
find the actual occasion j that is not so." 

" I do not suggest that. I only say that the jury must 
be satisfied that adultery has been committed before they 
can infer from opportunity and desire that it has." 

" You may put two people in bed together ; that fact 
does not prove adultery, but you may infer it." 

" My lord, I only mean that the jury must be satisfied 
that adultery has taken place, and that they need not infer 
it by reason of desire and opportunity being proved." 

Rufus Isaacs then went on to say that the jury must be 
satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of the accused persons' 
guilt, and that he was very glad to accept that dictum from 
the Bench. Now, in point of fact, he had more or less 
re-stated his own original position, but had attributed it to 
the judge, whom he had taken good care not to antagonise. 
It was in this sort of difficult situation that Rufus Isaacs 



208 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

excelled. There have been prominent advocates who have 
been quick to show their zeal for their clients' interests by 
promptly quarrelling with the Bench on such occasions, but 
in such situations discretion is generally the better part of 
valour, and they might be wiser to imitate the adroit tactical 
management of Rufus Isaacs. 



CHAPTER XV 



THE famous case of Joel and Sievier belongs to the 
genre of the Chetwynd-Durham suit and the Hartopp 
divorce case, and indeed is one of the last of such 
cases j for the leisurely nineteenth century had been 
succeeded by a sterner epoch. Nevertheless popular atten 
tion was caught by the Sievier case as strongly as it had been 
by the Hartopp 5 nor were there wanting reasons. Both 
protagonists were Turf personalities and in one way and 
another considerably in the public eye. J. B. Joel, brother 
to the famous Solly, was like him a man of great wealth, 
who, after making a fortune in South Africa, had established 
a racing stable in England j and indeed this case, in which 
Mr Joel instituted criminal proceedings against Mr Sievier 
for blackmail, was on its personal side the culmination of a 
long-standing Turf quarrel between the two. Now the 
Turf at that time contained no more interesting devotee 
than " Bob " Sievier, as he was called by those who knew him 
and thousands of those who did not. In his 'teens he had 
served in the Army in the Zulu wars, and had then turned 
actor 5 as a further proof of versatility he afterwards became 
an owner and trainer of horses, in which capacity he became 
in a comparatively short time one of the most successful 
men on the Turf. But it was perhaps as the owner of the 
famous filly, Sceptre, which won four out of the five 
" classics," and in 1 902 won the Derby for her owner that 
he was best known, and, as the British public, or at any 
rate that not inconsiderable section of it which <c follows " 
racing, has the pleasing custom of transferring to the owner 
of a horse some of that affection naturally felt for an animal 
which habitually proves a good investment, he was a popular 
man. 

209 



210 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

Soon after his great triumph in 1902, however, Mr 
Sievier's luck for a time deserted him. In 1904, he felt 
constrained to bring an action for slander against Sir James 
Duke; he had briefed Rufus Isaacs, but he had not been 
able to appear and the case was lost. This misfortune 
caused him to give up his stud, and to recoup himself he 
founded the Winning Post, a " spicy " racing weekly, which 
instantly became very popular. One of the features of this 
paper was a weekly series entitled " Celebrities in Glass 
Houses," and on October i5th it was announced that the 
next subject would be J. B. Joel; on the 22nd, the article 
appeared. Now there had been for some time a feud between 
Mr Sievier and Mr Joel, and Mr Sievier's autobiography 
had contained some very biting references to him; nor was 
the treatment of Mr Joel in the Winning Post of the 
gentlest. In addition, Mr Sievier had discovered that in 1 884 
Mr Joel left South Africa in circumstances which it was 
thought Mr Joel would not be anxious to have made public. 

The culmination of the feud was reached in June, 1908, 
when Mr Joel instituted a prosecution for blackmail. On 
June 29th Mr Sievier was arrested at a race meeting, and on 
the next day appeared on preliminary inquiry at Bow Street 
on the charge of threatening to publish a libel on J. B. Joel 
to extort 5,000, and of promising to abstain from printing 
and publishing such matter to extort 5,000. The gravamen 
of the charge, as outlined in the Police-Court proceedings, 
was that Sievier had tried to get 5,000 from Joel as the 
price of his immunity from further attacks upon him in the 
Winning Post, and in particular to prevent the publication 
of his portrait between that of two murderers. After a 
hearing of some days, Sievier was committed for trial, and 
the case was opened at the Old Bailey on Tuesday, July 
28th, 

The trial attracted enormous public attention, because of 
the position of both men on the Turf and in the world of 
sport (indeed, by a curious coincidence their recreational 
interests are almost identical, according to Who*s Who, Mr 
JoePs being " all kinds of sports " while Mr Sievier " hunts, 



ACQUITTAL OF "BOB" SIEVIER 211 

shoots, plays cricket, and indeed all games.") But the 
public was attracted, too, by the dash of counsel, for once 
again Rufus Isaacs and Carson were in opposition, Charles 
Gill, K.C., and Archibald Bodkin, afterwards Public Prose 
cutor, appearing with Carson, and Montagu Shearman, K.C., 
and R. D. Muir, who had conducted the Police-Court 
proceedings, with Isaacs. But the trial had not gone very far 
before it was seen that this time it was Rufus Isaacs who 
dominated the Court and riveted the attention of the public ^ 
deadly in cross-examination, lucid in exposition and vigorous 
in his pleading, his conduct of the case was masterly. 

What the prosecution had to prove in order to substantiate 
their allegation of blackmail was that Sievier had used his 
attacks on Joel as a lever to extort money from him, and 
that he had pressed Joel to buy him off. The prosecution 
started with one outside fact apparently in its favour, namely 
that Joel was a rich man and Sievier at the time was. in 
financial difficulties 5 but this was a consideration that Isaacs 
was later to turn dramatically in favour of his client. From 
the start of the case Isaacs realised exactly where to join 
issue; if he could show that, so far from Sievier despatching 
emissaries to Joel to demand money from him, Sievier had 
made no move to approach him, and had in fact himself 
been approached by Joel, the presumption against Sievier's 
having blackmailing intentions was tremendously strong. 
This was really the central consideration in the case, and 
never for a moment did Isaacs lose sight of it himself or 
allow the jury to do so. 

The small Court was packed when Carson opened the case 
for the prosecution. He painted a graphic picture of the 
misery caused to Joel by the frequent attacks upon him, and 
his anxiety to get them stopped for his own sake and that 
of his family. While Joel was in this state of mind, Sievier 
was in financial difficulties, and the prosecution's allegation 
was that he took advantage of Joel's misery and distress 
to extort 5,000 from him. Joel and Sievier had had no 
direct transactions, and the prosecution's case was that Sievier 
had used the offices of two mutual friends, Bendon, who 



212 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

was a broker on the Stock Exchange and an owner of race 
horses, and one Mills, who was a betting agent. These two 
who had had a number o interviews at JoePs house to discuss 
the matter were, in addition to Joel himself, the chief 
witnesses for the prosecution, and much, therefore, depended 
on Isaacs' handling of them. 

In answer to Carson, Bendon had told how he had tried 
to borrow 2,000 for Sievier from Solly Joel, and that on 
his refusal he had applied to J. B. Joel 5 but Sievier had 
said that he would only deal with J. B. Joel through Mills. 
At the start of his cross-examination, Isaacs drew from the 
witness the admission that he was anxious to oblige the Joels, 
for whom he did business 5 and further that it was Mills 5 
influence, and no question of monetary transaction, which 
had prevailed on Sievier to discontinue the attacks on Solly 
in the Winning Post. And then, leaning forward a little, 
Isaacs put the question: 

" Had you any notion that a trap was being laid for Mr 
Sievier? " and then the soft voice, hardening in its em 
phasis, he added slowly " Trap is the word." 

" I suspected something at the second interview at Mr 
Jack JoePs house. I told Mills I thought it a very dirty 
business." 

" When you called it a dirty business you were referring 
to the trap? " 

" Principally." 

And then Isaacs asked: " Did you think Mr Solly Joel 
was more to be trusted? " to which the witness answered 
that " we knew him better," and the Court laughed at the 
naivete of the reply. 

It was the next witness, Mills, " who executed bets for 
Mr Solly Joel, but did not receive any commission, being 
content to back the same winners," who had been the chief 
intermediary j but Isaacs 7 treatment of him was on the same 
lines. Mills, in his examination-in-chief, told how he first 
saw Joel, who said that he wanted to settle the matter j this 
information he passed on to Sievier, who had said that he 
would do it for 5,000. Joel had offered half, but Sievier 



ACQUITTAL OF "BOB" SIEVIER 213 

had refused, saying that if Joel did not agree he would 
publish his photograph in the Winning Post between those 
of two murderers. At this Joel had consented to 5,000 
on condition that Sievier wrote a letter to be kept by Mills, 
saying that he would molest him no further. 

But witness had substantiated Bendon's statement that his 
own influence was sufficient to induce Sievier to give up the 
attacks on Solly j and Isaacs urged the point that a much 
more powerful influence might well have operated to the 
same effect in this case. 

" Did you say that Mr Joel had told you that Mr Roths 
child had said that this matter must stop? " 

Yes." 

" Mr Rothschild is a man much respected in racing and 
other circles and what he said would have great influence 
with Mr Sievier? " 

" Yes." 

And it did have? " 

" Yes." 

On the next day, Isaacs resumed his cross-examination 
of the witness. 

" You must have been amazed when you heard of 
Sievier's arrest? " 

" I was amazed. I first heard from Chief-Inspector 
Drew that what had taken place was a criminal offence." 

" You realised the part you had played in it? " 

" I realised my position was an unpleasant one." 

And then he asked the same question as he had already 
asked, with such effect, of Bendon. 

a You thought a trap had been laid for Sievier? " 

Yes." 

" Did you think that the person who had got you into it 
had played you a dirty trick? " 

Yes." 

That was Joel? " 

" Yes." 

" Do you think Joel played you a dirty trick? " 

" Most decidedly." 



214 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

It will be noticed that this cumulative series of questions, 
all asked to establish the same point, and pressing it home 
with tremendous force, was a series of. what are known as 
" leading questions." This form of questioning, which by 
the form of the interrogation suggests the answer, would not 
be valid in examination-in-chief or re-examination 3 but it is 
a rule of evidence that it is permissible in cross-examination, 
where of course, it is unlikely that the witness, being 
" hostile," will take his evidence from the suggestion of 
counsel. 

By the time Joel took Mills' place in the witness box, the 
prospects of the prosecution were distinctly less rosy, for 
Isaacs had handled the two witnesses with skill; he had 
treated them gently on the whole, but he had elicited the 
points which he wished to establish, with dramatic directness, 
and when they left the box they gave the impression of 
men who had been brought unawares into a transaction which 
they would never have touched had they known its true 
character. But it was Isaacs' cross-examination of Joel 
which was the masterpiece of the trial. Hour after hour 
the Court watched him, fascinated, as his keen, relentless 
questions drew from the millionaire the whole shabby story 
of his desire to prosecute Sievier, his use of Sievier's friend 
Mills as go-between, and his concealment of Chief-Inspector 
Drew in the wall behind the curtain during his interview 
with Mills. Isaacs' dry humour raised a laugh at the start. 
He had put it to Joel that he wanted to prosecute not to 
give hush-money, to which Joel replied: 

" Yes. There never was sufficient material on which to 
prosecute." 

" Well I am glad to hear you say that," remarked Isaacs. 
" I rather agree." 

But there was not much laughter during that ruthless 
cross-examination. 

" At the first interview with Mills did you ask him to see 
what Sievier would take? " 

" I did not use those words. I asked him to see what 
he could do. I expected he wanted money." 



ACQUITTAL OF "BOB" SIEVIER 215 

" Did you then hope to get evidence against him so as 
to prosecute him? " 

" Yes, if the opportunity occurred." And then, conscious 
that Isaacs was getting the better of him, and anxious to 
justify himself, he added: " He had been persecuting me 
for four years." 

But Isaacs went on ruthlessly to cross-examine him with 
regard to his use of Mills. 

" Did you know that Mills was a great friend of Sievier, 
possessing great influence over him? " 

" Yes." 

" And you used him for that reason? " 

cc Not intentionally. I did not know how far it would 
go." 

" It would go all the way as far as you were concerned." 

" Yes, certainly," 

<c You were using Mills. Do you consider that was a 
dishonourable thing to do? " 

" It was an unfortunate thing," admitted the witness. 

" What! " said Isaacs, his composure for once deserting 
him, and an unaccustomed note of anger sounding in his 
voice. " It was a dishonourable thing. Who wrote the 
telegram," he continued, " c 5,000 ridiculous after offer 
to accept 2,000. Would give half ' ? " 

" My solicitor." 

And then once again that brief, deadly question: cc It 
was a trap? " 

The question had already been answered twice by wit 
nesses for the prosecution. This time there was no answer, 
but only a justification, which was more complete an ad 
mission than an answer would have been: " He had 
threatened to publish my picture." 

The Court had been spellbound during this lengthy cross- 
examination, but the atmosphere changed from one of 
dramatic intensity to one as near comedy as is possible in a 
Court of Justice, when Rufus Isaacs put his client, Sievier, 
in the box, as the sole witness for the defence. His answers 
to Isaacs' examination-in-chief were, however, important, 



2i6 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

for he explained how he had told Mills that he would keep 
JoePs name out of the paper to oblige him, but that he did 
not want to make any money out of it. He did, however, 
wish to borrow some; and, after giving him a cheque for 
1,000 on the 24th, Mills had surprised and delighted him 
by telling him that he could lend him 5,000. 

Under cross-examination, however, Sievier began to 
develop theories of his own. Rufus Isaacs, as we have seen, 
had been careful to make no allegations against Mills and 
Bendonj he had taken the line that they had been drawn 
into the business, unaware of JoePs desire to prosecute 
Sievier. Sievier, however, in cross-examination, now sug 
gested that both Mills and Bendon were committing perjury 
and were in a conspiracy against him. He must have realised 
how far this theory differed from Isaacs' interpretation of 
their actions, and if this was really Sievier's serious opinion 
at the time, it must have been due to the- not unnatural 
indignation of a man who feels that he has been let down 
by his friends. His evidence, however, was given in a very 
cheerful, natural manner, which kept the Court in a good 
humour. He raised considerable laughter in Court when 
in answer to Carson's question: "He must be an awful 
liar? " he said " Either he is or I am! " And again, when 
Carson said " Mills was pressing money on you and you 
were trying to resist it? " the Court found Sievier's mock- 
horrified protest "Oh dear, no. Oh! Lord, no! " quite 
irresistible. 

As Isaacs had called no witnesses to fact for the defence 
except the prisoner, the right to speak last should normally 
have been his. But the rule is that documentary evidence 
is for this purpose the same as spoken evidence, and Isaacs 
had put in documentary evidence; it was not clear, however, 
that the evidence which he had put in was such as to be 
sufficient to deprive him of his right. An argument followed, 
but in the end Carson chivalrously waived his claim on the 
ground that if there was, any doubt the prisoner should 
have the benefit of it. At this Sievier thanked him cheer 
fully from the dock, only to meet with a scowl from Carson 



ACQUITTAL OF "BOB" SIEVIER 217 

and the reply, cc I don't want any thanks from you." An 
appreciation of life's lighter moments was perhaps not fore 
most in the armoury of gifts of this great fighting advocate* 

Carson's speech took full advantage of the new turn to 
the defence, which Sievier's evidence implied. " The whole 
case of the last two days," he urged, " has been abandoned 
at the eleventh hour," and went on to claim that the only 
defence was perjury on the part of Joel, Bendon and Mills. 
The speech, which was spoken with considerable power, 
contained one great phrase, " If you do, this will be a day 
of Magna Charta for blackmailers," and ended with an 
appeal to the jury not to let Sievier's popularity affect their 
verdict or deflect them from their duty. 

And then Isaacs rose to make his final address. He had 
made a great impression with his cross-examination of Joel, 
but since then the case for the defence had been complicated 
somewhat by Sievier's quixotic theories, and the jury had 
heard Carson's oratory. Isaacs first, therefore, replied to 
Carson's taunt about " eleventh hour " defences 5 he pointed 
out that the question of a trap had been raised from the first, 
and suggested that it had been unfair for Carson to wring 
from Sievier an answer to the effect that Joel and Mills had 
conspired against him. He took up, too, Carson's reference 
to prejudice. " Prejudice! " he exclaimed. " There has 
been enough prejudice introduced against Mr Sievier in 
this matter. The fact that he has had to borrow money has 
been used against him." What, in any case, was the reason 
for this complicated method of proceeding? Joel could have 
sought his remedy by action for libel or by prosecution for 
criminal libel, and to the latter charge the mere truth of 
the statement complained of would have constituted no 
defence. 

He then came^ on to the central issue of the case. a It is 
significant," he said, " that for seven weeks from April 2gth 
Mr Sievier made no single move to extort money. According 
to Mr Joel himself, everything that Mr Sievier could have 
said had been said before the alleged threat ... As to Joel's 
mind on June 23rd, he knew Sievier was broke, and I put 



2i 8 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

it to you that his thought was, c Here is my opportunity 
for getting rid of the man for Heaven knows how long. 
He is broke, and here comes the opportunity for my money. 
I must get somebody to help me.' That somebody had 
been Sievier's friend and the method was as described." 
And Isaacs' voice took on a note of indignation as he went 
on, " I make no complaint as to putting a detective in 
hiding in order to detect a crime which it was known was 
going to be committed. But in this case the trap was laid 
to induce a man to commit acts which could be made to look 
like a crime. That is a dirty, disgusting, disgraceful trans 
action from which every man's mind will recoil with horror. 
What was the beginning of the conversation with Mills? 
Joel said * Well, what have you done? ' Let me draw 
particular attention to the reply, c I have -done what you 
want. 5 . . . The prosecution must prove that the proposal 
came from the prisoner. I can hardly restrain my feelings 
in discussing it. The proposal in this case came from Joel, 
not from the man in the dock." 

The voice rose, as he swept on to his peroration: 
" Imagine a man with the power of money behind him, 
knowing that another man whom he hated was hard up and 
broke. Imagine him getting hold of the man's best friend, 
and most trusted confidant, setting him to work to make 
him take gold, forcing him to take it, and then arresting 
him, prosecuting him ..." And then in a quieter tone, 
compelling by its contrast, " Sir Edward Carson has elo 
quently put before you the wrongs of Joel. I am not going 
to appeal for sympathy for Sievier, or for mercy, but to ask 
you to weigh the evidence which has been presented to 
you." 

He had finished and, as he sat down, volleys of applause 
rang out from the whole Court, and could hardly be 
restrained. When silence was at last obtained, Lord Alver- 
stone, the Lord Chief Justice, began his summing up which 
proved to be rather long and indecisive. And then the jury 
retired to consider their verdict. On their return there 
was a great hush of expectation, and a tenseness of suppressed 



ACQUITTAL OF "BOB" SIEVIER 219 

excitement could be felt all over the Court. But when the 
foreman of the jury pronounced " Not guilty," restraint 
was cast aside and an enormous cheer went up, which was 
promptly taken up outside and re-echoed by the vast crowd 
waiting patiently outside the Old Bailey. Five thousand 
of them had gathered to welcome the popular hero, who on 
surveying his supporters must have thought that he was 
emerging from the frying pan into the fire 5 he wisely decided 
to leave by a side door, but there was no escaping the popular 
approval, and Sievier was driven away through cheering 
crowds with the delighted coachman pointing to the hero 
with his whip and shouting " Pve got him in here 5 Pve 
got him in here." When Rufus Isaacs left the Old Bailey 
he was greeted with round after round of tremendous 
cheering, a tribute at once to the way in which he had 
conducted his case and the popular conclusion to which he 
had brought it. 

These scenes of enthusiasm evoked a good deal of hostile 
comment at the time, and The Times in particular devoted 
a leading article to gloomy prophecies of what such conduct 
must lead to. It is certainly true that scenes such as these 
are unsuitable, possibly at any time, and certainly as a 
reception of the verdict of a Court of Justice 3 to Carson 
particularly, as he left the Old Bailey he was on the 
unpopular side this time the sight must have called up 
memories of the disgusting frenzy of triumph which 
followed the downfall of Oscar Wilde. It is said, too and 
truly said that the case of Joel and Sievier was not of a 
very elevating nature; but the Courts of Law do not choose, 
nor do they create, the circumstances which lead people to 
seek their intervention, and many of the greatest legal 
battles and the most important judicial decisions have a 
petty, or even a sordid, background. And Isaacs himself 
had no reason to look back on the case with other than a 
just pride, for it had been the occasion of one of his best 
speeches to a jury, and one of the most deadly cross- 
examinations in the history of the Courts. 



CHAPTER XVI 

COMMERCIAL MAGNATES V. PRESS LORDS 

^ I ^HE Sievier case followed the famous libel action of 
I Lever v. The Daily Mail y in which Rufus Isaacs 
^ and Carson were in opposition. The facts of this case, 
however, which originated in a great newspaper campaign, 
left Rufus Isaacs with little chance, save to make the best 
of a bad job. William Lever, afterwards the first Lord 
Leverhulme, who had started life as an assistant in his 
father's grocery store, had later turned his attention to the 
manufacture of soap, in which he had so prospered that a 
business which had started as a factory at Warrington, where 
twenty tons of soap were turned out weekly, had expanded 
in twenty years into the giant concern at Port Sunlight with 
a capital of 6,000,000, a weekly productivity of three 
thousand tons, and a pay-roll of three thousand five hundred 
employees. In 1906, however, there came a threat in the 
shape of an increase in the price of the raw materials used 
in the manufacture of soap; but Mr Lever decided not to 
offset this by a rise in the price of the finished product. 
Instead he reduced the weight of the standard sixteen ounce 
tablet to fifteen ounces and sold it at the same price, giving 
notice of the change of weight. This did not solve the 
problem, however, and accordingly Mr Lever hit on the 
idea of a great soap trust, so as to economise the costs of 
competition and advertisement. But in this he had reckoned 
without Lord Northcliffe and The Daily Mail, which 
decided that the creation of a trust was merely intended to 
run up the prices against the public, who would be deprived 
of the protection of salutary competition. It would, there 
fore, be contrary to the public interest to permit the un 
challenged existence of the combine, and it would certainly 
be contrary to the advertising interest; for Lever Bros. 

220 



MAGNATES V. PRESS LORDS 221 

had expended half a million of money in their outlay on 
Press advertisements, and, as the Times remarked in a 
leading article commenting on the verdict, "the interests 
of the accuser, too, were against a soap trust, which would 
tend to diminish the number of advertisements." 

The Daily Mail has in its history waged many campaigns; 
all have been vigorous, and many successful. Whatever 
its ultimate success, in point of vigour the attack on the soap 
trust left nothing to be desired. In the autumn months of 
1906, article succeeded article in The Daily Mail and the 
Evening News, developing one or another of the lines of 
attack; for the charges were numerous. Lever Brothers 
had disguised the reduction of weight in the sixteen ounce 
tablets, so as to deceive the public ; they had dismissed a 
large number of employees in consequence of the amalga 
mation ; they had cornered all the raw materials in the mar 
ket, so as to be able to control prices; they had used 
unsavoury fish-oil in the manufacture of soap; they had 
attempted to bribe the Press, but had had to abandon the 
effort because patriotic papers like The Daily Mail refused 
to be bribed: -such was the burden of the attack, and it was 
reinforced by headlines such as " Soap Trust Arithmetic; 
How Fifteen Ounces make a Pound," " Squeezing the 
Public. Trust Soaps Already Dearer. The Sunlight Sales 
Falling. How to Fight the Trusts," " Cruel Blow to the 
Poor," and so on, while cartoons appeared headed " Port 
Moonshine." The attack got home; Mr Lever was forced 
to restore the sixteen ounce tablets, and to resume advertis 
ing in the Press. The two million preference shares had 
been reduced in value a pound apiece, and the whole struc 
ture of the Company had received a staggering and a 
damaging blow. In the circumstances only one course was 
possible, and Mr Lever issued a writ for libel, claiming 
heavy damages. 

There was no doubt that The Daily Mail had over 
reached themselves, and let their zeal outrun their discretion. 
The only hope for the defence, as Rufus Isaacs saw, was 
for him, in cross-examination of Mr Lever, to extort suffi- 



222 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

cient admissions to show that there was a strong basis for The 
Daily Mail's main case, compared with which the exaggera 
tions of the actual presentation of the case were incidental. 
But when the case came on at the Liverpol Assizes in July, 
1907, Carson, in a comprehensive and eloquent opening, 
put the case for Lever Brothers in a very strong light, and 
then at once called Mr Lever, who proved as efficient in the 
witness box as in the conduct of his business.. Rufus Isaacs 
brought all his powers to bear in cross-examination, but Mr 
Lever, conscious of the integrity of his motives and his 
expert knowledge of the whole question at issue, remained 
unshaken. When the end of the second day of the trial 
arrived, Rufus Isaacs had made no headway j it was clear 
to him that the case was hopeless. To continue would only 
make bad worse and aggravate the damages, especially as 
Carson, in calling Mr Lever, had challenged Rufus Isaacs 
to call Lord Northcliffej and Lord Northcliffe, who, how 
ever pure his intentions, had no expert knowledge of the 
facts, could not hope to survive Carson's cross-examination 
with the same degree of immunity as Mr Lever had survived 
Rufus Isaacs 7 . Rufus Isaacs sized up the situation, and 
informed his clients as to the position, advising them to 
make an immediate settlement as the best way of cutting 
their losses. They agreed to this course of action, and 
empowered Rufus Isaacs to settle for whatever sum Mr 
Lever should demand. Now Mr Lever had no intention 
of taking less than 50,000, but, when Rufus Isaacs met 
Carson next morning, he offered at first only i 0,000 j it 
was not that he expected this sum to satisfy the plaintiff, but 
a low initial offer was the best method of creating an atmos 
phere of moderate amounts. The offer was refused by 
Carson on behalf of his client, and after further negotiation 
the sum was fixed at 50,000. A juror was accordingly 
withdrawn and Lever Brothers had won the final round of 
the long strugle in the short space of two and a half days. 

That Rufus Isaacs acted correctly in the interests of 
justice and wise in the interests of his clients in advising a 
settlement, is indisputable. In fact, Mr Justice Lawrence 



MAGNATES K PRESS LORDS 223 

went so far as to say, " on the evidence before me it is the 
right and proper and only honourable course to take." 
Admittedly the damages were large they were the largest 
ever awarded in a libel action to that date but they were 
not unduly large in relation to the damage suffered or to 
the great wealth and position of both parties; and, in com 
parison with the sums not infrequently awarded in breach 
of contract cases, 50,000 is by no means an enormous sum. 
It is quite possible indeed that if Rufus Isaacs had allowed 
the case to go to the end, the damages would have been 
higher. The Daily Mail at all events had no dissatisfaction 
with the settlement made on their behalf: " In view," they 
wrote, " of the unshaken testimony of Mr Lever in the 
witness box, no other result was possible. The effect of his 
statements on oath and the impression which they produced 
upon the Court, left no course open to us but to withdraw 
the plea of justification which had been entered, and, in 
expressing our entire approval of the action of our counsel, 
we do not desire to depart in any particular from the words 
which he used . . . We fully and frankly adopt every word 
used by our counsel, both by way of withdrawal and by way 
of apology, and we have only to add that we are glad to 
observe that he accepted without question Mr Lever's own 
estimate of the amount of money which we were to pay as 
damages." 

The year 1908 saw another forensic duel between Rufus 
Isaacs and Carson of a very different sort; this was the 
mammoth contest of Wyler v. Lewis, perhaps as protracted 
and difficult a case as has ever been heard in the Courts. 
Both parties were connected with firms of stockbrokers, and 
the case arose out of a long struggle for the control of the 
Nyassa Company which in 1893 had acquired by charter 
sovereign rights, administrative powers, and a commercial 
monopoly in Portuguese Nyassaland. Isidore Wyler had 
originally been approached to finance the company, but 
Lewis and Marks had tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a 
purchase of the rights. Then, according to the plaintiff, 
they entered into a conspiracy to induce the company to 



224 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

repudiate the agreement so that they might themselves 
acquire control $ and ultimately when an agreement was 
entered into for a form of joint control, they had not 
intended to carry it out, but had entered it merely so as to 
be able to oust Wyler from his interest in the company, 
and by intentionally mismanaging the concern had brought 
it to voluntary liquidation. Lewis and Marks denied the 
charges, and claimed that Wyler had never entered into a 
valid agreement with the original Nyassa Company. Rufus 
Isaacs led for the plaintiffs and Carson, supported by Mr 
Montagu Lush, K.C., for the defendants. The trial lasted 
thirty-three days, Rufus Isaacs' opening speech lasting for 
two whole days and Isidore Wyler occupying the witness 
box for eleven, which, as Mr Justice Phillimore remarked 
" is as long, probably longer, than any witness in any other 
known case." The jury finally found for the plaintiffs with 
an award of 64,472 damages j but Carson took the case to 
the Court of Appeal, where the decision was reversed after 
an argument extending over eighteen days. Rufus Isaacs' 
speech on this occasion occupied nine days, which was pro 
bably longer than any other speech ever made in the Court 
of Appeal. 

Much shorter and much simpler, and infinitely more 
dramatic than this commercial marathon was the case of 
Cadbury v. The Evening Standard, the last great action 
in which Rufus Isaacs and Carson opposed each other in 
private practice. As in the case of Lever v. The Daily Mail, 
a great commercial firm had been goaded by the incessant 
attacks of a leading newspaper into adopting the only 
weapon available against the Press, a libel action in the 
Courts. But in this case there could be no question of com 
mercial bias on the part of The Evening Standard, nor had 
the facts merely to be stated in full in order to reveal the 
exaggerations of the charges. Such bias as the Standard had 
was a legitimate political bias, since, as Mr Marjoribanks 
observed, " beneath the surface the whole ethical foundation 
of the doctrine of Free Trade was in question." For the 
Cadbury family, as is well-known, embodied many charac-- 



MAGNATES V. PRESS LORDS 225 

teristicsj they were manufacturers, newspaper proprietors 
and politicians, .They were philanthropists too, and 
temperance reformers, Quakers in religion and Radicals in 
politics. They combined the control of the Daily News 
with the institution and supervision of the model village at 
Bourneville. Such versatility is highly commendable, but 
a little dangerous. For instance, the political portion of 
Cadbury's, as represented in the Daily News, had taken a 
leading part in the agitation against Chinese slavery, which 
had so materially assisted the Liberal triumph of 1906. 
But supposing it turned out that the commercial part of 
Cadbury's was fed by the produce of slave labour $ where 
stood Radicalism then? And supposing it transpired that 
the trim gardens and pleasant parks of Bourneville were 
laid with the sweat and the agony of less fortunate employees 
whose sufferings were the dark secret of distant lands j where 
was philanthropy then? It was just such a contrast as this 
that the Standard believed itself to have discovered; and, 
with an animation which was the more lively in view of the 
approaching General Election, they vociferated the question 
in a rising crescendo of majestic wrath. Were these things 
consistent with the philanthropy which had built Bournville, 
with the Radicalism which had denounced so indignantly 
the horrors of Chinese slavery? 

For, in point of regrettable fact, part of the raw material 
used by Cadbury's was the product of slave labour. This 
was that portion of it which it was their custom to import 
'from the Portuguese islands of San Thome and Principe on 
the West Coast of Africa. Information reached Cadbury's 
that there was in force here a system of compulsory labour, 
barely distinguishable from the worst forms of slavery, and 
the firm felt it to be its duty to make inquiries. Ultimately, 
in conjunction with the other great cocoa manufacturers, 
Messrs. Fry and Messrs. Rowntree, they sent out Mr J. 
Burtt to investigate conditions on the spot, the greater part 
of the cost of the expedition, which was in the neighbourhood 
of 4,000, being borne by Cadbury's. Mr Burtt's report 
was an emphatic endorsement of the view that the labour 



226 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

system in the islands was one of slavery } further, it was 
slavery of a peculiarly brutal sort having, in fact, all the 
attributes which Victorian Radicalism attributed to slavery, 
and which were perhaps more often found in " free labour." 
Mr William Cadbury took the report to the Foreign Office, 
then presided over by Sir Edward Grey, and asked his advice 
as to whether the report should be published and whether 
Cadbury's should stop buying their raw material from this 
tainted source. Sir Edward answered both questions in the 
negative j His Majesty's Government was on excellent 
terms with the Portuguese Government, and diplomatic 
pressure would be brought to bear on our most ancient and 
honoured allies, which must not be anticipated by action on 
the part of private individuals. This was in October of 
19065 but the ways of diplomacy are traditionally slow, and 
it was January, 1909, before diplomatic intervention was 
finally judged to have failed. Messrs. Cadbury then stopped 
buying from the islands, eight years having passed since the 
suggestion of slavery was first made known to them. And 
eight years, measured in the agony of a crucified humanity, 
is a long time. 

In the circumstances the attitude of the Standard was not 
surprising. Whatever it was that Cadbury's had done had 
been ineffective, and they had continued to buy the cocoa 
year after year in full knowledge of the conditions in which 
it was produced. And these were the people who jn a 
different capacity had led the campaign against " Chinese 
Slavery" in 1906! There had been an election in 1906, 
and there was another imminent in 19095 so what had been 
sauce for the Liberal goose could clearly be sauce for the 
Tory gander. Consequently the Standard referred to Mr 
William Cadbury's journey of investigation to the islands 
as a " Quaker filibustering expedition," and in an article of 
October, 1908, said: "We congratulate Mr Cadbury upon 
his journey, which does not come too soon . . . One might 
have supposed that Messrs. Cadbury would themselves long 
ago have ascertained the conditions and circumstances of 
those labourers on the West Coast of Africa and the islands 



MAGNATES V. PRESS LORDS 227 

adjacent, who provide them with raw material." The 
article went on to refer to Mr H. W. Nevinson's report 
for Mr Nevinson had been commissioned by an American 
magazine to report on conditions and had painted a most 
lurid picture of their barbarity and said: " it is not called 
slavery c contract labour ' they name it now but in most 
of its essentials it is that monstrous trade in human flesh 
and blood against which the Quaker and Radical ancestors 
of Mr Cadbury thundered in the better days of England 
. . . The so-called contract is a farce . . . There is only 
one thing more amazing than his statements, and that is 
the strange tranquillity with which they are received by 
those virtuous people in England whom they intimately 



concern." 



The attack provoked the only possible reply ; the issue of 
a writ for libel. The case came on for hearing at Birming 
ham in bitterly cold weather towards the end of November. 
Public interest in it was naturally enormous, greater even 
than in the Lever case for, like the trial of Sir Edward 
Russell, the case seemed in some sort a rehearsal for the 
General Election. The great Liberal family concern of 
Cadbury's was matched against one of the foremost of Con 
servative newspapers, and it was, therefore, politically 
appropriate that the Standard should entrust its fortunes to 
Sir Edward Carson, .and Messrs. Cadbury rely on two 
Liberal Members of Parliament for whom the future held 
high office, Rufus Isaacs and John Simon. Carson, how 
ever, was supported by counsel whose future lay elsewhere 
than in politics Eldon Bankes, a future Judge, who had 
been with Rufus Isaacs in his first great newspaper libel 
action of Chamberlain v. The Star, and Henry M'Cardie, 
whose courageous attitude and independence of mind were 
subsequently to make him outstanding among post-war 
judges. 

Rufus Isaacs, in opening the case for Cadbury's, had 
many factors in his favour. There was the high reputation 
and undoubted integrity of his clients 5 there was the opinion 
of the Foreign Office, which was to be supported by the 



228 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

evidence of Sir Edward Grey himself ; there were the efforts 
which Cadbury's had in fact made, the visits of Mr William 
Cadbury and the equipment and despatch of Mr Burtt's 
commission. All these points were touched upon and ampli 
fied by Rufus Isaacs, who also contended that the case had 
nothing to do with the Daily News, with which in fact Mr 
William Cadbury had no connection. The issue, as he saw 
it, really was whether it was true to say that when the 
knowledge of the conditions was brought to his clients, they 
made no attempt to ameliorate them, but wilfully shut their 
eyes in order to continue in the enjoyment of their profits. 
This was not exactly what the Standard maintained in their 
plea of justification, however j they admitted that efforts 
had been made indeed, in view of the facts, it would have 
been difficult not to do so but suggested that they had been 
insincere efforts, undertaken in order to satisfy appearances. 
This change in defence gave Rufus Isaacs an advantage of 
which he was quick to avail himself, for it added the charge 
of hypocrisy to that of indifference. The Standard^ in effect, 
had said: " You have done a great deal, but-you are a set 
of canting hypocrites - 7 you are liars and frauds who have 
been pretending to do things 5 you have been pretending to 
work, to labour, on behalf of those people} you have been 
doing it simply in order that you may be able to say so one 
day, and to point to what you have done." Such, said Rufus 
Isaacs, were the charges which the Standard were called 
upon to substantiate. 

Rufus Isaacs 3 principal witness was Mr William Cadbury 
one of the five members of the family who were directors 
of their firm and plaintiffs in the action to whom had been 
assigned by the firm the task of superintending the investi 
gation of conditions. His evidence, however, was interrupted 
by the arrival of Sir Edward Grey, who was at once put 
into the box and examined by Rufus Isaacs. He confirmed 
the contention of the plaintiffs with regard to the attitude 
of the Foreign Office, namely that there should be no publi 
cation of the report nor public step taken as a result of it 
before it had been laid before the Portuguese Government. 



MAGNATES V. PRESS LORDS 229 

" My recollection," he said, " is quite clear on the point 
that a certain situation had arisen, and that the information 
which Messrs. Cadbury had should not be made public use 
of at the time. My opinion was that the information should 
be dealt with first by negotiation with the Portuguese Gov 
ernment before any public step was taken." Mr Cadbury's 
evidence was then resumed and he told the story of his 
efforts on behalf of the unfortunate " contract labourers " 
and of the difficulties which had stood in his way; he had 
told Sir Edward Grey, too, that if he thought that their 
buying of the cocoa stood in the way of action, he had only 
to write to them and they would do what he thought best. 
That Mr Cadbury was an honourable man, with a genuine 
horror of the conditions of slave labour was obvious \ that he 
had made considerable efforts to do his duty in ameliorating 
those conditions was dear from the evidence. And it might 
have been expected that in his own citadel of Birmingham, 
where his qualities were best known and respected, his evi 
dence, with the moral backing of his great reputation, would 
have carried the day. Probably, opposed by any ordinary 
advocate, his position, if not impregnable, would have been 
safe enough. But Carson was no ordinary advocate, and he 
invested his conduct of the cross-examination with the whole 
force of his tremendous personality. Much of it has already 
appeared in Mr Marjoribank's book, but it is nevertheless 
entitled to reproduction here; for, although to get the full 
effect of it one must see the tall, lean figure, hear the deep, 
Irish brogue and feel the impact of that towering personality, 
even the coldness of the printed word cannot rob it of its 
vigour and effectiveness. 

" Is it a fact," asked Carson, " that San Thome's cocoa 
has been slave grown to your own knowledge for eight 
years? " 

" As far as the report from Ayola and the island of San 
Thome is concerned, I am quite satisfied that slave-grown 
cocoa describes the condition, generally speaking." 

" Would you say it was slavery of a very atrocious 
character? " 



230 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

" Generally speaking, as far as the collecting of labour 
in Ayola goes, that is true." 

" The cocoa you were buying was procured by atrocious 
methods of slavery? " 

Yes." 

" Men, women, children taken forcibly away from their 
homes against their will? " 

" Yes." 

" Were they marched on the road like cattle? " 

" I cannot answer that question. They were marched in 
forced marches down to the coast." 

" Were they labelled when they went on board ship? " 

Yes." 

" How far had they to march? " 

" Various distances. Some came from more than a 
thousand miles, some from quite near the coast." 

" Never to return again? " 

" Never to return." 

" From the information which you procured, did they go 
down in shackles? " 

" It is the usual custom, I believe, to shackle them at 
night on the march." 

" Those who could not keep up with the march were 
murdered? " 

" I have seen statements to that effect." 

" You do not doubt it? " 

" I do not doubt that it has been so in some cases." 

Carson passed on to question him about the interview with 
Sir Edward Grey. 

" Did you expect the Foreign Minister was going to keep 
in his mind what you had said about it, and if he sent you 
a line you would stop buying cocoa? " 

" Yes, I thought he would." 

" You never took any pains to put that on paper for 
him? " 

" No." 

" How many interviews do you think he would have a 
day? " 



MAGNATES V. PRESS LORDS 231 

" I don't know." 

" You^expected him to keep it in mind and drop you a 
postcard if he wanted you to do anything? " 

" Yes. I never had any doubt about the good faith of 
Sir Edward Grey." 

_ Carson's last two questions were shattering in their 
directness. 

" From 1901 to 1908, when you ceased dealing with the 
islands, was there anything effective that you did at all in 
the direction of reforms? " 

" I think there was myself. It is perhaps a matter of 
opinion. I readily admit that my efforts resulted in a great 
deal less than I should have liked." 

" Have you formed any estimate of the number of slaves 
who lost their lives in preparing your cocoa during those 
eight years? " 

" No, no." 

The last answer was half a cry, half a protest, and Mr 
Cadbury winced visibly as it was put. On the next day, 
however, Rufus Isaacs' re-examined him with a view to 
rehabilitating the position. The re-examination was directed 
to establish three points: that the individual ceasing to buy 
on the part of Cadbury's would have been useless 5 that the 
firm had been advised to give the Portuguese Government 
time to act; and that it had been actuated throughout by a 
sincere desire for reform. Rufus Isaacs' last two questions, 
though not informed by the force of Carson's, effectively 
concentrated attention on the aspect of the case, favourable 
to his client. 

" Can you tell me," he asked, " during the time when 
you were carrying on the work for your firm and other firms, 
looking back upon it now, is there any step which you could 
has taken which you did not? " 

" No, I am sure there is not." 

" Whether the Foreign Office succeeded or not was not 
a matter within your province? " 

No." 

Later, Mr George Cadbury, the head of the firm and a 



232 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

director of the Daily News, gave evidence, and in cross- 
examination admitted to Carson that from 1901 to 1907 
there was no mention in the Daily News of conditions in 
San Thome, which were worse than those in the Transvaal, 
against which the Daily News had waged its campaign. 
Having secured as much advantage as he had in his cross- 
examination of the brothers Cadbury, Carson boldly resolved 
to call no witnesses for the defence. It would have been 
expected that he would at any rate have called the defend 
ants, who had put in a plea of justification, but Carson 
decided that his case should consist entirely of his own 
speech to the jury. In this he was wise, for he had in his 
cross-examination made the case peculiarly his own 3 to call 
his clients would have been to expose them to Rufus Isaacs 3 
cross-examination and thus to give him the chance, which 
he wanted, of deflecting the case from the plain ethical issue 
of slavery, to which Carson was so successfully steering it. 
Carson's speech was a masterpiece of strong, passionate 
pleading, a speech, as Rufus Isaacs termed it, of " power 
and scorn and invective." The essence of his speech was 
simple. Here was slavery of the vilest sort 5 and Cadbury's 
had spent 1,300,000 on slave-grown cocoa. What was 
their explanation? " Oh, we continued this for eight years 
for humanitarian purposes ; we did it very much against our 
sentiments, in the interests of the people of San Thome and 
Principe." Then there was the defence, "jf we didn't buy 
it somebody else would "5 what a splendid defence for a 
receiver of stolen goods! In point of fact, Cadbury's had 
been spinning the matter out for eight years, and continuing 
to buy cocoa on the grounds that it was a useful lever in 
negotiation. And what was the upshot? Nothing had been 
done till the end, when they announced that " our Mr 
Cadbury has found things so bad that we must discontinue 
using all this cocoa and with great regret give up our 
humanitarian policy and withdraw the lever that has been 
applied for eight years." 

Rufus Isaacs in his reply criticised strongly a case which 
relied solely on counsel's speech. Why had not the defen- 



MAGNATES V. PRESS LORDS 233 

dants been called? Why especially had not Mr Nevinson 
been called although he had been sitting in the front of the 
Court all the week, passing notes to counsel? He then 
detailed the various steps taken by Messrs, Cadbury, in 
refutation of Carson's contention that nothing had been done 
save to spin out time. The basic charge was one of hypocrisy. 
" But is it," he asked, " consistent with the charge of hypo 
crisy that Mr Cadbury should risk his life and health in a 
land devastated by pestilence, and then, when he saw for 
himself that the promised reforms were not being carried 
out, to cable home to use the last weapon against the planters 
namely, 'stop buying*? " The effort had been made by the 
defence to represent the matter as one of public interest 5 
but it must not be regarded as that. The honour of the firm 
of Cadbury was in question, and that alone was the issue. 

The conclusion of Rufus Isaacs' speech was greeted with 
applause in Court, and the detailed summing up of Mr 
Justice Pickford turned out to be definitely favourable to 
the plaintiff's case, It was no surprise, therefore, when 
after fifty-five minutes the jury returned to announce^ 
verdict for the plaintiffs, and cheers again broke out in 
Court, but they stopped abruptly when, in answer to the 
Judge's question as to the amount of damages, the foreman 
replied that they had awarded Messrs. Cadbury's a farthing. 

The award of the smallest coin of the realm is, of course, 
contemptuous damages. The result was, therefore, in a 
sense a victory for the Standard; and it was certainly a 
personal triumph for the advocacy of Sir Edward Carson. 
But it is easily possible to exaggerate the extent of the 
victory, for there is a clear difference between the award of a 
farthing's damages and a verdict for the defendants. " The 
verdict is not, " said the Times, " and the small damages 
notwithstanding ought not to be construed as in any way 
a verdict for the defendants." Indeed, if the Standard did 
claim it as a victory, it was at best a Pyrrhic one j for the 
costs, which were heavy, were adjudged to follow the ver 
dict and were awarded against them. Nevertheless the 
contemptuous damages undoubtedly betokened a censure of 



234 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

Messrs. Cadbury, and such a censure was no mean embarrass 
ment to the famous philanthropists. It is in the circum 
stances impossible not to feel sympathy with them, for they 
were undoubtedly men of honour, anxious to do their duty. 
But, as Quakers and Radicals, they had arrogated to 
themselves an especial prerogative of rectitude, and the 
grant of the monopoly had been extended to the whole 
Liberal Party, whose shrill denunciations of the alleged 
horrors of " Chinese Slavery " were accompanied by an 
assumption of ethical superiority. This being the case, there 
was one course and one only which Messrs. Cadbury could 
have taken wholly consonant with the undiminished main 
tenance of their reputation $ and that was to have shunned the 
unclean thing from the very moment when its tainted origin 
was made known to them. They did not do this, and a 
representative British jury awarded them a farthing's 
damages. For it is one of the most salutary of the national 
instincts of the British people that from those who make 
proclamation of virtue shall virtue be exacted to the last 
jot and tittle. 

This was the last great case in which Rufus Isaacs and 
Carson were matched in private practice. The following 
year found them once more opposed in the lists j but by 
this time Rufus Isaacs carried the colours of His Majesty's 
Government. 



CHAPTER XVII 
A POLITICAL CHAPTER: SOLICITOR-GENERAL 

WE have seen how the bright hopes of the Liberal 
majority had been largely involved in shipwreck 
on the rock of difficulties which in the heady 
triumph of 1906 they had been unable to anticipate. The 
anger which this misfortune provoked was as great as the 
frustration had been unexpected and, as it grew in intensity, 
it became concentrated on the House of Lords, which had 
proved so effective a stumbling-block to the passage of the 
Education Bill and the Plural Voting Bill. The feeling of 
the Party found concrete expression in the construction by 
the Cabinet of a scheme of reform for the Upper House 
in the Summer of 1907, the sense of which was indicated by 
the Prime Minister in the Resolution, which he proposed in 
the House of Commons on June 24th. (A House of 
Commons Resolution, it may parenthetically be mentioned, 
is a pious expression of intention or opinion, which has no 
immediate legislative relevance.) The three-day debate on 
the Resolution provided Rufus Isaacs with the opportunity 
of making his second big speech in the House in 1907. The 
first had been made on February 2Oth in the course of the 
debate on the Address, when he spoke on the subject of 
Free Trade $ his speech on that occasion, although part of 
it was devoted to a clever analysis, in the forensic manner, 
of the Conservative policy on the question, contributed only 
the stock arguments to the perennial controversy. 

The Resolution of June 24th read: "That, in order to 
give effect to the will of the people as expressed by their 
elected representatives, it is necessary that the power of the 
other House to alter or reject Bills passed by this House 
should be so restricted by law as to secure that within the 
limits of a single Parliament the final decision of the 

235 



236 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

Commons shall prevail." The machinery by which it was 
proposed that this result should be arrived at is interesting 
as an anticipation o the provisions of the Parliament Act. 
Thus it was suggested that a Bill, which had been passed 
three times in the Commons and from which the Lords con 
tinued to dissent, should become law 5 this proposal was ulti 
mately embodied in the Parliament Act, but in the scheme of 
1907 not so long a time would have been required to elapse 
between the first and third passings of the Bill by the 
Commons as the two years stipulated by the Parliament 
Act. There was, however, no reference to Money Bills 
in the 1907 proposals, but there was, on the other^hand, a 
suggestion for a standing conference, appointed in equal 
numbers by both Houses, which should be held when agree 
ment between the two Houses was impossible. The adoption 
of this machinery would have brought this country into line 
in this respect with the Dominions, where joint-sessions or 
conferences are part of the Constitutional arrangements. 

The Resolution gave rise to a three-day all-star debate. 
On the first day Mr Balfour replied to Sir Henry Campbell- 
Bannerman, while literature was represented by Mr Hilaire 
Belloc, and constitutional law by Sir William Anson. On 
the following day there was aristocracy in the person of 
Lord Robert Cecil, Labour in the person of Mr Arthur 
Henderson, and vigorous dialectic in the person of Mr 
Winston Churchill, who denounced the House of Lords ^as 
a "one-sided, hereditary, unpurged, unrepresentative, ir 
responsible absentee." On the third day, Mr Lloyd George 
made an impassioned oration, " informing the House," as 
Mr F. E. Smith said, who followed him, " with eloquence 
and in tones which quivered with emotion of the suffering 
of people who are living in slums.' 5 (The motion under 
discussion, it will be remembered, was a constitutional one 
relative to the powers of the Second Chamber.) ^ Mr F. E. 
Smith was in his turn followed by Mr John Simon who, 
with the masterly understatement of a Liberal and a lawyer, 
described the preceding speech as an " indignant oration." 
Rufus Isaacs' turn came late on the third day after this 



A POLITICAL CHAPTER 237 

attractive display of rhetorical fire-works had exhausted 
itself. His own speech contained no pyrotechnics, but was 
for all that competent enough, calm, analytical, and unim- 
passioned. It provided, too, an instance of his consistent 
refusal to be rattled by interruption. When talking of the 
referendum he pointed out that a referendum could not in 
fact be taken without the introduction of unconnected 
matters, at which somebody shouted " Chinese labour, for 
instance." Rufus Isaacs, quite unflustered, adopted the 
suggestion, saying: " Yes, Chinese labour, if you like. That 
is a good argument against the referendum." 

The Resolution was finally carried by 432 votes to 147. 
Its terms were a dear declaration of war upon the House 
of Lords, and from this time onwards it is true to say that 
domestic politics were dominated by the impending conflict 
with the Peers. Early in 1908 Campbell-Bannerman died 
and his loss was a matter of great importance to the Liberal 
Party j for Campbell-Bannerman, though not possessed of 
the great ability, the wide culture, or the subtle sensibilities 
of his successor, was probably more representative of the 
rank and file of the composite Liberal Party than was 
Asquith. The more Radical element of the party feared 
that the installation of Asquith, who had been a Liberal 
Imperialist, in the Premiership in place of Campbell- 
Bannerman, who had been a " pro-Boer," would upset the 
nice adjustment of forces. Especially were they concerned 
about foreign affairs for Sir Edward Grey belonged to the 
same group as Mr Asquith and was known to possess his 
especial confidence and friendship j with such a combination 
in charge of the direction of foreign policy, what might not 
be anticipated in the way of imperialism, foreign complica 
tions and increased armaments? The fears of the Radicals 
were unfounded, for, in point of fact, Campbell-Bannerman's 
death had the reverse effect to what might have been 
supposed. It is true that, in view of the German naval 
challenge and militant policy in those years, the foreign 
policy of the country was probably safer with a man of 
Asquith's temperament at the head of affairs than it would 



238 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

have been with Campbell-Bannerman; but nevertheless 
Campbell-Bannerman had been sufficiently impressed with 
the requirements of the situation to sanction, for instance, 
the military conversations with France indeed Mr 
Churchill states that only the fact that Campbell-Bannerman 
had given his sanction enabled his successor to prevail on the 
Liberal Party to accept the policy* In the realm of domestic 
affairs, on the other hand, Mr Asquith was succeeded at the 
Exchequer by Mr Lloyd George, who was right in the van 
guard of advanced Radicalism 5 and it was clear that, what 
with the increased revenue required for social services and 
for a naval programme to offset the German challenge, the 
Exchequer was to rank with the Foreign Office as the centre 
of interest and the point of controversy. Increased revenue 
would necessitate increased, and possibly revolutionary, 
taxation 5 and it was virtually certain that what the Lords 
might perhaps have granted in face of financial necessity 
in other circumstances would not be yielded to a Chancellor 
who had carried on a guerilla warfare of exceptionally 
violent harangues against the House of Lords. 

But this is a slight anticipation. The main interest of 
the year 1908 in domestic politics was the struggle over the 
Licensing Bill This measure, which had been postponed in 
1906, was finally introduced by the new Prime Minister 
himself in April of 1908. The Bill was a controversial 
measure proposing a considerable reduction of licenses in 
ratio to population, and the principle, though not the 
immediate practice, of compensation was to be abandoned. 
The Bill was strenuously opposed by the Conservative 
Party, and legal questions arose as to the property of in 
vestors 5 to this aspect of the case Rufus Isaacs addressed 
himself in the debate on the Second Reading of the Bill in 
a clear succinct speech which was quite free from the fanati 
cism which grips so many people especially Liberals in 
the discussion of "temperance." Rufus Isaacs showed 
himself to be capable of discussing a temperance measure 
temperately. "I am not," he said, "a member of any 
* The World Crisis. Vol. I, p. 34. 



A POLITICAL CHAPTER 239 

temperance party. My views are those of a moderate, 
average person anxious to consider this Bill upon its merits." 
Whatever its merits may have been, however, they were not 
apparent to the Conservative majority in the House of 
Lords, and in November the Bill was rejected by the Upper 
House by the emphatic majority of 272 to 96. The Liberal 
Party interpreted this action as a definite challenge, and in 
December of 1908 the Prime Minister gave the signal for 
battle j " I invite," he said, " the Liberal Party to-night to 
treat the veto of the House of Lords as the dominating 
issue in politics the dominating issue, because in the long 
run it overshadows and absorbs every other." 

This is not the place to attempt to tell the story of the 
conflict between Lords and Commons in 1909-10. Suffice 
it to say that the famous Lloyd George Budget of 1909 
the " People's Budget " as it was called in certain circles 
which was designed to raise fourteen million pounds of 
additional revenue by means of increased income-tax, super 
tax and taxation of land values, was bitterly opposed by the 
Conservative Party and ultimately shared the fate of the 
Licensing Bill in an even more decisive rejection by the 
Lords. But, whereas the Lords were clearly within their 
rights in rejecting an ordinary piece of legislation, finance 
was thought at any rate in Liberal circles to be the ex 
clusive province of the Commons 5 and certainly there was 
nothing in the nature of a recent precedent to give authority 
to their action. But from a strictly constitutional stand 
point the Lords were acting with undoubted propriety 5 and 
it may be added that such invasions of their rights as that 
which Mr Gladstone perpetrated in 1861, when he intro 
duced the system of " tacking," le. y bringing in controversial 
points under cover of a comprehensive Budget, affords at 
once reason and excuse for such drastic action. Be that as 
it may, the Lords considered it their duty in the discharge 
of the responsibility, attaching to them under the Constitu 
tion, to reject the Budget; the Liberal majoriy in the 
Commons deemed the rejection to be an obstruction of the 
will of the people, as expressed in their elected representa- 



240 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

tives. The situation had clearly reached an impasse, and 
Mr Asquith dissolved Parliament, in the hope of obtaining 
from the country a mandate for action. 

The General Election of January, 1910, provided Rufus 
Isaacs with his third contest at Reading j but it was the first 
of the three in which the Liberal fortunes had not been on 
the ascendant. The Election, however, was fought not so 
much on the four years record in office of the Liberal Party 
as on the specific issues of the Budget of 1909 and the House 
of Lords. Rufus Isaacs put these two issues in the forefront 
of the campaign at Reading, which he carried on with the 
vigour which had marked his other contests. This time he 
had the active speaking support of his son Gerald 5 and a 
new Conservative opponent in the person of Major Renton, 
a former Liberal M.P. for Gainsborough, who was a recent 
convert to Conservatism. He was, as one would expect, 
moderate in the expression of his criticism of the House of 
Lords j indeed his statement that he would infinitely prefer 
to do away with the House of Lords and have an elective 
second chamber instead would probably find an echo in the 
Conservative Party to-day. (Not, it may parenthetically 
be added, a very substantial echo, for though the Conserva 
tive Party is not now convinced of the necessary efficacy of 
personal heredity, it sees that a second elective chamber 
would merely be a burdensome reduplication of the House 
of Commons.) In the course of the election he went to speak 
for Mr Lloyd George, who made a return visit to Reading, 
while among others who spoke for Rufus Isaacs was ,a 
promising young Oxford undergraduate, called Philip 
Guedalla. Mr Lloyd George's speech was interrupted at 
the word " robber " by the apparition of two dishevelled 
suffragettes, who had been hidden under the platform for 
seventeen hours and then emerged dustily, shouting " you 
are a robber because you take away the women's money and 
don't give them the vote." This unseemly attack upon the 
great democratic leader was very properly resented, and the 
two young women, in the full happiness of martyrdom, were 
forcibly ejected by the stewards. A rather grimmer note of 



A POLITICAL CHAPTER 241 

humour was struck by another passage in his speech, in which 
he derided the Conservative agitation for a strong navy. 
" During last year," he said, " they were clamouring for a 
bigger and more expensive fleet. There was a great national 
crisis 5 they said the security of our shores was in danger. 
The Germans might come any day. 77 The enunciation of 
this last absurdity of Tory anticipation won its reward in 
loud laughter; it was the rich careless laughter of happy 
people, dwelling by the volcano. It is pleasant to hear, but 
it echoes mockingly down the corridors of time. 

In the result Rufus Isaacs was duly re-elected, though 
by a decreased majority, and he returned to the new Parlia 
ment as a private member once more. But Mr Lloyd 
George's prophecy that he would see Rufus Isaacs by his 
side in the next ministry was soon to be fulfilled, in effect 
if not quite literally, for in March 1910, Sir Samuel Evans, 
who had become Solicitor-General when on Lawson 
Walton's death in 1908 Sir William Robson had succeeded 
to the Attorneyship, was created President of the Probate, 
Divorce, and Admiralty Division in succession to Sir John 
Bigham. The office of Solicitor-General, therefore, stood 
vacant. There could be no doubt as to who was the fitting 
successor. Rufus Isaacs' yearly earnings at the Bar had by 
this time reached the monumental figure of 30,000, and he 
had shown that there was no kind of case which exceeded 
his capacity; his practice was at once lucrative and varied, 
versatile and comprehensive, and together with Carson he 
stood unquestionably at the head of the profession. It is 
true that he had made no great Parliamentary reputation, 
but his interventions had been competent enough, and the 
qualities required in a law officer of the Crown are not 
precisely identical with the more truly Parliamentary gifts 
which go to the making of effective private members 7 
debating speeches. The offer, therefore, was duly made to 
Rufus Isaacs, and, despite the fact that office would entail 
abandonment of his enormous private practice and a con 
siderable sacrifice of income, was promptly accepted. 

It was at this time necessary, under a Statute passed in the 



242 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

reign of Queen Anne, for private members who were 
appointed to the Ministry in the course of Parliament to 
present themselves to their constituents for re-election. 
(The necessity has since been obviated by an Act of 1925.) 
The Conservative Central Office and Chief Whip were 
anxious to fight the seatj but the course of events had 
dearly indicated that there would be another General 
Election within a short time, and the local association was 
not anxious to have three contested elections within a few 
months. Besides, Rufus Isaacs was popular in Reading, and 
the honour done to the town by his appointment to office 
was appreciated irrespective of political differences. Conse 
quently it was decided not to contest Rufus Isaacs' return. 
The news of the decision reached him as he was just con 
cluding a speech in St. John's Hall, Reading, and he at once 
said: " I accept the decision in the same spirit in which it 
has been arrived at by the Conservative Party, and as in no 
sense a Party triumph. If it is, as I expect, that the Con 
servatives have arrived at the conclusion that they do not 
desire to contest the seat in view of the honour conferred 
upon the gentleman who was the member for Reading, then 
I say that I appreciate much the courtesy and the gracious- 
ness of that decision. I trust there will be found no one in 
the constituency who would in the slightest degree attempt 
to make any party capital out of it." 

It was a graceful acknowledgment of a graceful action. 

Sir Rufus Isaacs, therefore for he had received the 
honour of knighthood returned to Parliament without 
opposition, to take up his seat on the Front Bench and the 
discharge of the ministerial duties to which he had sacrificed 
his private practice at the Bar after over twenty years of 
almost unchequered success. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

THE ARCHER-SHEE CONTROVERSY 

KJFUS ISAACS' tenure of the Solicitor-Generalship 
was to be short indeed, though its brevity was not 
due, as might at one time have been expected, to 
the early fall of the Liberal Government. On the contrary, 
Rufus Isaacs was not destined to resume private practice, for 
the vacation of his office was a result of his promotion to the 
Attorneyship in the following October. But the short period 
when he was Solicitor brought the last and not the least 
famous of his duels with Carson j this was the case of the 
Osborne cadet, George Archer-Shee. 

It is not my intention to narrate the circumstances of this 
famous episode, but merely to make a few comments on it; 
the long, chivalrous struggle of Sir Edward Carson on 
behalf of his boy client has already been vividly described 
by Mr Marjoribanks, and it is only necessary to state here 
that George Archer-Shee was a cadet at Osborne, who was 
expelled from the College on the grounds that he had stolen 
and cashed a postal-order belonging to his friend, Terence 
Bachj the boy strenuously denied the charge, but on the 
evidence of the postmistress who had cashed the postal- 
order, and of Mr Gurrin, the handwriting expert who 
declared the forged signature to be in the writing of George 
Archer-Shee, the Admiralty decided that he was guilty and 
dismissed him. The Archer-Shee family, however, were 
convinced of the boy's innocence and enlisted the powerful 
services of Carson, who threw himself into the cause with a 
whole-hearted vigour that was characteristic of his energy 
and devotion, and pressed the Admiralty to grant a judicial 
inquiry. All that the Admiralty would do, however, was to 
have an investigation by Mr George Elliott, K.C, and an 
inquiry by the Judge-Advocate of the Fleet, Mr Acland, 

243 



244 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

K.C., at neither of whi<$i George Archer-Shee was allowed 
professional representation 5 the result, therefore, in these 
circumstances was not unnaturally that the Admiralty found 
no reason to alter their decision. Carson, therefore, decided 
to seek the intervention of the Courts j but herein lay a very 
serious difficulty. 

It is, of course, well known that the Crown in litigation 
occupies a peculiar and favoured position ; that is to say, it 
is not liable in tort, and though it has a liability in contract 
by the procedure known as Petition of Right (which, it may 
be noted, is at any rate in theory granted as a matter of 
grace and not of right), this method leaves it with its pre 
rogatives in pleading and practice. However, a liability in 
contract does exist, and perhaps the advisers of George 
Archer-Shee might proceed by this method, on the ground 
that the boy's dismissal was a breach of the contract between 
the Crown and the parents for the education of the boy at 
Osborne. But here there was a serious difficulty, for it has 
been clear law ever since the decisions of Dunn v. The 
Queen and Mitchell *y. The Queen in 1896 that appoint 
ments in the service of the Crown are determinable at the 
pleasure of the Crown and that a petition of right will not 
lie for breach of such contract; for, as Lord Esher said in 
the latter case: " The law is as clear as it can be, and it has 
been laid down over and over again as the rule on this 
subject that all engagements between those in the military 
service of the Crown and the Crown are voluntary only on 
the part of the Crown, and give no occasion for an action in 
respect of any alleged contract." There could, therefore, 
be no question of the Crown being made liable for an alleged 
breach of contract in severing Archer-Shee's connection with 
Osborne j for, young as he was, the contract was the same 
as that subsisting between the Crown and any professional 
soldier or sailor. But his position was peculiarly unfortun 
ate, because, although he shared to the full the contractual 
disadvantage, his status as a cadet did not entitle him to the 
compensating privilege of being able to demand trial by 
Court-Martial. There was thus no remedy within the boy's 



THE ARCHER-SHEE CONTROVERSY 245 

power, except what the Admiralty had chosen to give 5 and 
this Carson rightly felt was not enough. 

So ultimately when after two years during which time 
George Archer-Shee had returned to his old school. Stony- 
hurst the case came on in Court, it was a petition of right 
for breach of contract which was pleaded; and in answer to 
this, as Carson very well knew, the Crown had only to plead 
that a petition of right would not lie in such a case, and his 
case was gone. But, wrote Mr Marjoribanks, " it seemed im 
possible that the Crown could object in any formal way to 
the trying of the facts of the case before a jury. The Crown 
surely would not dare to condemn a helpless and perhaps 
innocent child to lifelong ignominy by sheltering behind the 
prerogative claim of the Crown to immunity. Yet this is 
precisely the plea which Sir Rufus Isaacs was instructed to 
raise." When the case came on before Mr Justice Ridley, 
Rufus Isaacs did in fact raise the technical plea of privilege, 
and insisted that he was entitled to judgment. Readers of 
Mr Marjoribanks 5 book will remember how Carson then 
stalked indignantly out of the Court, and succeeded in 
having the case heard by the Court of Appeal only six days 
later j how, though Rufus Isaacs still relied on the privilege 
of the Crown, Carson carried the day with the three Lord 
Justices of Appeal, who decided that the facts should be 
heard j and how, after a trial of tense excitement, Rufus 
Isaacs finally withdrew on behalf of the Admiralty and 
declared that they entirely acknowledged George Archer- 
Shee's innocence. Ultimately though not for a longer 
period than was creditable to our public departments 
7,120 was paid to Mr Archer-Shee by the Treasury in 
settlement of costs and compensation. 

That money could not fully compensate for the pain and 
suffering caused to the family of an innocent boy, wrongfully 
conyicted, and for the setback to his career, is clearly 
demonstrable. Nothing can, or should, obliterate the fact 
that the whole affair was tragically unfortunate and it 
becomes all the more regrettable in view of the attitude of 
the Admiralty. For in two major points I regard the 



246 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

conduct of the Admiralty as being open to the severest 
criticism. Their failure to communicate with the boy's 
parents, while the matter was being investigated, seems 
quite indefensible in view of the serious nature of the 
charge 5 and it is almost as regrettable that the Department 
did not see fit to allow Archer-Shee professional represen 
tation in the inquiry held before the Judge- Advocate of the 
Fleet. It is true, as was pointed out at the time, that the 
other party, which was the Crown, was not represented 
either. But the position of the Crown and that of a young 
boy, though each may be equally parties to a case, cannot 
really be compared ; especially as the boy was on trial, where 
as the Crown, of course, was not. And although, since the 
Crown was not technically " heard " at the inquiry, the 
maxim audi alteram ^artem would not apply, the whole 
proceedings were a violation of the fundamental and equally 
respectable maxim, which forbids that anybody should be 
condemned unheard. 

And what of Rufus Isaacs' reliance upon the privileged 
immunity of the Crown, when the case was heard? Mr 
Marjoribanks condemned his action strongly ; but in his 
indignation at the clumsy injustice of the Admiralty and the 
unfair advantage attaching to the Crown, he perhaps looked 
too much at one aspect of the question. For a Law Officer 
of the Crown had duties other than to individuals. Mr 
Marjoribanks is right, of course, in the contention that the 
interests of justice come first j but the difficulty is to deter 
mine what in any given case are the interests of justice, for 
it is clear that if individuals are allowed to judge the 
question for themselves, society is liable to revert into the 
primitive system of barbarism, from which the institution 
and enforced observance of laws originally rescued it. If 
the law decrees immunity or privilege for the Crown in 
certain cases, it must be because it is considered that the 
cause of justice and the interest of the community are best 
served by such privilege. Privilege is an instrument not 
only laid ready to hand for a law officer in these cases ; he 
is already armed with it, and must actually divest himself 



THE ARCHER-SHEE CONTROVERSY 247 

of it, if he does not intend to use it. As Rufus Isaacs himself 
said, " what I say is that it is not for me as law officer to 
make the law, but it is for me to administer it, and I have 
to deal with the law as I find it, and the books are full, as 
every lawyer knows, of decisions that there is no such right 
of action, and that the Court cannot even discuss such an 
action if it is brought before it." He was the guardian of 
the rights of the Crown j but, of course, it would have been 
possible to waive privilege. Should he have done so on this 
occasion? " This is," he said, " just one of those matters 
in respect of which a law officer has no right to waive the 
privileges of the Crown, i.e., the rights of the public, and 
he must not waive them. If those rights have to be 
abolished, it is entirely a matter for Parliament, and once 
Parliament has done it, anyone can bring such an action." 
But since he was armed, on behalf of the Crown, with the 
weapon of privilege, Rufus Isaacs felt that he ought not 
lightly to cast it aside. " I have found, on studying the 
cases of waiving of privileges by law officers, that they are 
very jealous indeed of waiving privileges, and I have been 
unable to find a single precedent in which there has been 
a waiver of the Crown Prerogative, allowing such a case to 
be brought. I should have been only too glad if I could 
have said, as law officer, c Try the case.' What objection 
coujd I have to trying the case? My difficulty was this. 
I stepped into the matter when the record was already 
completed, when the plea of the demurrer was already on 
the pleas, and there was that plea on the very threshold of 
the case which had to be dealt with, and I should have been 
wanting in my duty if I had said, c This is an unpleasant 
matter for me to have to argue. I do not care to have to 
take this point in a case where a boy is trying to vindicate 
himself j therefore I will waive the right of the Crown, and 
will allow the case to be tried.' " 

It is clear, therefore, that the matter was hardly as simple 
as Mr Marjoribanks would lead us to believe. On the one 
hand there was this boy, not yet known to be innocent in 
fact adjudged guilty but who might turn out to be inno- 



248 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

cent; on the other hand there was the position of the Crown, 
which could not lightly be sacrificed by an abandonment of 
its privileges in a manner that might establish precedent. 
For Carson, though his task was one of enormous difficulty 
which would have transcended the powers of any other man, 
the course was clear; he had only to think of his duty to his 
client. For the Solicitor-General the issue was more com 
plex. If he did not waive the privilege, then the unfortunate 
boy's last chance of vindicating his good name was gone 5 
but on the other hand, he saw grave objections to the course. 
Rufus Isaacs decided to use the " demurrer " i.e., to say 
that the other side had no case in law which had been 
entered on the pleadings ; and, having so decided, he insisted 
on it in the Court of instance, and was only prevailed upon 
to abandon it at the expressed and unanimous desire of .the 
Judges in the Court of Appeal. (It is worth noting that 
the demurrer was never overruled in the Court of Appeal; 
nor could it have been, for it was undoubtedly sound in law, 
and the Crown to-day could successfully adopt just the same 
tactics if similar circumstances arose.) 

There had perhaps never been a harder case than that of 
poor George Archer-Shee, whose position as apprentice 
sailor deprived him of every form of legal redress, and it 
is well known that hard cases make bad law. Rufus Isaacs 
was undoubtedly acting with legal propriety in taking the 
attitude which he did. Nevertheless one can only be glad, 
in view of circumstances, that Carson was able virtually to 
compel a trial of the facts; for that and that alone could 
establish the innocence of George Archer-Shee. One is 
forced, therefore, to consider whether it would not have 
been better for Rufus Isaacs to have waived privilege at 
once, and submitted to argument on the facts. This was, 
as we have seen, neither as easy nor as obvious a course of 
action as has been suggested; but nevertheless there were 
several factors in the case which made it the desirable course. 
In the first place there was the anomaly of Archer-Shee's 
status. Had he been a fully-fledged naval officer, he could 
have demanded a court-martial; and the impossibility of 



THE ARCHER-SHEE CONTROVERSY 249 

obtaining a remedy in the civil courts would not have pre 
cluded him from the opportunity of vindicating his character. 
He was, however, only a cadet, and the position was so 
unusual as to be virtually unprovided for 5 consequently a 
law officer of the Crown could adopt a fairly wide latitude 
of discretion. There was all the more excuse, if not necessity, 
for it, on account of the conduct of the Admiralty in having 
refused representation to Archer-Shee at any inquiry 5 for if 
the mistake of the Admiralty was not rectified by generosity 
on the part of another Government department, Archer-Shee 
would have been condemned unheard. In these circum 
stances, it seems to me that Rufus Isaacs would have done 
well to waive at once the privilege, whatever the force of 
precedent which is 'not, in such a matter, binding in any 
case and to allow a hearing on the facts. For the fact that 
the demurrer was entered on the pleadings did not compel 
him to argue itj counsel may not argue points that are not 
in the pleadings, but he is not bound against his better 
judgment to argue everything that the pleadings contain. 
And, with regard to this, a law officer of the Crown is in a 
special position, for he is not, like ordinary counsel, concerned 
merely with the legal or technical issue. He is, in addition, 
a member of the Government, who must advise on the 
aspect of the policy 5 that is to say, if for example a prose 
cution for sedition is mooted, he does not merely inform the 
Government as to whether it is sound in law, but gives his 
opinion of its desirability with regard to public policy in 
addition. And, as a matter of public policy, it was clearly 
inexpedient to put it no higher to put up the bulwark 
of Crown prerogative against the hearing of Archer-Shee's 
case. For the lay public, which knows little of prerogative 
and dislikes that little is deeply and instinctively con 
vinced that the right of a fair hearing for all must be at the 
root of the sound and equitable administration of the law; 
and to such a hearing George Archer-Shee's anomalous 
status did not entitle him. He got his hearing in the end, 
but it is a pity that he did not receive it through the voluntary 
action of the Crown. For, though there is no fundamental 



250 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

law in this country, to which a citizen can appeal against 
the operation of the ordinary laws, it is fundamental to the 
nature of a free state that nobody should be put outside 
the law and denied even the opportunity of satisfaction 
from it. Such, at least, is the sense of public opinion ; and 
in such a question it is entitled to respect. 



CHAPTER XIX 

TROUBLED POLITICS: PARLIAMENT BILL AND HOME RULE 

SIR RUFUS ISAACS did not long remain Solicitor- 
General after the Archer-Shee case, for in October, 
1910, Sir William Robson was appointed a Lord of 
Appealj and so, shortly before his fiftieth birthday, Rufus 
Isaacs became Attorney-General and titular leader of his 
profession. It may be observed that in his case, judged by 
the previous extent and position of his private practice, the 
tide had a stronger savour of reality than is sometimes the 
case. His place as Solicitor-General was taken by John 
Simon, then only in his fortieth year 5 and together they 
made one of the youngest and most effective of Govern 
mental legal teams in recent years. 

The new change in status did not, of course, necessitate 
a bye-election, as the original appointment to office had done. 
But before very long he was faced with the challenge of 
another General Election* An early General Election had, 
as we have seen, been anticipated in March, when it had 
been decided not to oppose Rufus Isaacs at Reading; for 
King Edward took the view that a second reference to the 
electorate was necessary before the Government could be 
considered to have a mandate for applying compulsion to 
the Lords. And, indeed, even the most hardened Liberal 
partisan could hardly consider the shrunken majority of 
January, 1910 filled out, too, such as it was, with the solid 
block of the Irish Party as an enthusiastic invitation to 
proceed with the work of drastic reform. The King's death 
in May, however, altered the situation, for clearly it was 
undesirable to inaugurate the new reign by a bitter political 
controversy, especially as the Crown Prerogative was likely 
to be appealed to. The device of the Constitutional Con 
ference was, therefore, hit uponj this was an effort to reach 
agreement by way of a compromise to be worked out between 

251 



252 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

representative leaders of the two parties. A species of truce, 
therefore, subsisted between the two parties during the 
Summer 5 but, like most truces, it was an uneasy period more 
in the nature of a preparation for the inevitable war than 
the prelude to permanent peace. The truce was, however, 
duly observed during the period of the Conference, and the 
reforms, proposed by the Conservatives, were discussed 3 the 
proposals were in themselves a considerable contribution to 
the solution of the lasting difficulty of an appropriate balance 
between the two Chambers, restricting, as they did, the power 
of the House of Lords over finance, but not leaving it 
stripped of all effective share in ordinary legislation, while 
constitutional legislation was to be left to the final arbitra 
ment of a referendum of the whole people. Difficulties of 
definition arose, however, and the chances of reaching agree 
ment were not increased by the existence in the Liberal 
Party of a strong body of feeling, which was considerably 
more interested in crippling the power of the Lords than in 
arriving at a balanced adjustment of the relation between 
the two Houses, and this had its counterpart in that section 
of Conservative opinion which preferred a retention of the 
status quo to any reform of the Lords. 

In these circumstances it is surprising neither that the 
Conference broke down without achieving result, nor that 
its breakdown was hailed with something very like relief 
by politically-minded people. It happened that the news 
arrived in Reading during a meeting of the Women's Liberal 
Association. A telegram, announcing the breakdown, was 
handed to Rufus Isaacs during his speech 5 he read it out, 
and the news was received with loud and prolonged applause. 
" For my part," said Rufus Isaacs, " I believe I speak your 
views when I say this: c that we are glad our tongues are 
now loosened,' " and accuracy of his assumption was 
promptly provided by the renewed applause which greeted 
the statement of this belief. The collapse of the attempt 
to arrive at a negotiated agreement, however, meant that the 
contending forces would once more go into action; and Mr 
Asquith advised a dissolution of Parliament and an appeal 



PARLIAMENT BILL & HOME RULE 253 

to the electorate. Before he did so, however, he obtained 
an assurance that he might " understand that in the event 
of the policy of the Government being approved by an 
adequate majority in the new House of Commons, His 
Majesty will be ready to exercise his constitutional powers 
(which may involve the prerogative of creating Peers) if 
needed to secure that effect shall be given to the decision 
of the country." This meant that, if the country this time 
so far endorsed the Liberal policy as to give the party an 
"adequate majority "the precise interpretation of 'this 
phrase was not supplied then the resistance of the Peers 
could be overborne. In other words, the struggle was to 
be decisive 5 naturally, therefore, it was fought primarily on 
the great issue and with great energy and determination on 
both sides. 

The House of Lords had, in point of fact, before the 
election put forward a scheme of reform of their own, on 
the lines of the Conservative recommendations at the Con 
stitutional Conference. This the Liberals were quick to 
stigmatise as a death-bed repentance, and Rufus Isaacs at 
Reading described it as the sort of repentance felt by the 
criminal when the policeman's hand is on his collar. This 
was the third time in twelve months that he had sought 
election at Reading,' but on this occasion he was able to 
spend less time in the constituency than he had at previous 
elections, for he was now a person of political importance, 
whose services as a speaker were in demand elsewhere. He 
was able, however, to make a fair number of speeches in 
the course of one of which he said, " Don't be afraid of the 
cry of Single Chamber government and hasty legislation. 
We have always had Single Chamber government when the 
Tory Party was in power " in Reading, where the Conser 
vative cause was being vigorously championed by a new 
Conservative candidate in the person of Captain Leslie 
Wilson. (In all his elections at Reading, Rufus Isaacs was 
never opposed by the same opponent twice.) But Rufus 
Isaacs was compensated for his periodical absences in other 
constituencies by importing Mr Asquith and Sir John Simon 



254 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

to speak at Reading, which was favoured during the last 
week of the election, as Mr Balfour spoke for Captain 
Wilson. On December 3rd, Rufus Isaacs was declared 
re-elected; but his majority had shrunk to ninety-nine and, 
though great enthusiasm was manifested in the constituency, 
there was a certain disappointment on both sides. This 
feeling indeed was to a certain extent general as a result of 
the whole election, though Liberal disappointment was 
considerably less than it had been in the preceding January, 
for although the position was almost precisely the same, it 
was now felt that the country's verdict was unmistakeable. 
Actually the Election resulted in the return of 272 Liberals, 
who wanted to curtail the powers of the Lords 3 271 Con 
servatives, who were opposed to such action; 42 Labour 
members, who were returned primarily as Trade Union 
representatives but who also strongly desired a diminution, 
if not total abrogation of the powers of the Lords; and 84 
Nationalists, who were willing to have or to do anything 
provided that it got them nearer to the goal of Home Rule. 
The Government could, therefore, in a critical division, 
count on a majority of about 130; and with this " adequate 
majority " Mr Asquith advanced into action. 

The Parliament Bill was promptly introduced into the 
new House of Commons and came up for discussion on its 
Second Reading at the end of February, 1911. Of course, 
its passage through the Commons was now a certainty, and 
the critical struggle was reserved for the Lords. The story 
of the struggle is now a matter of History, and it would be 
hardly in place to recapitulate it here. Detailed accounts of 
it are to be found in the biographies of those prominently 
concerned in it, and to these the reader is recommended. 
There are two main points of controversy connected with the 
passage of the Parliament Bill. The first is: were the Con 
servative peers other than the " Diehards," right in refusing 
to reject the Bill and to challenge the creation of peers? 
The two points of view on this question are well put in the 
" Life of Lord Lansdowne," who advised acquiescence by 
the Conservative peers, and in the " Life of Lord Halsbury," 



PARLIAMENT BILL & HOME RULE 255 

who led the party of resistance. The other, and prior issue, 
is as to whether Mr Asquith was justified in getting from 
His Majesty the assurance that he would in certain circum 
stances use his- prerogative of creating peers, without 
advising him as to the possibility of an alternative Govern 
ment. There is a very able defence of his action in the 
Biography by Mr Spender and Mr Cyril Asquith, and a 
brilliant indictment of it in Sir John Marriot's "Second 
Chambers." 

Rufus Isaacs spoke on the third day of the debate on the 
Second Reading, when he had the honour of following Sir 
William Anson, the distinguished constitutional historian. 
In his speech he defended the Government from the charge 
of having no mandate for carrying through such radical 
reforms; " the only mandate to which I, at any rate, would 
subscribe, apart from supporting the general policy of the 
Government, is that kind of mandate which is a negative 
mandate. We have never." he went on, " drawn any 
distinction between constitutional changes by Act of Parlia 
ment and any other. The equally ultimate authority, I will 
ask the House to remember, with our Constitution is a 
newly elected House of Commons. That is the greatest 
authority that is known in the Constitution." The repudi 
ation of the validity of any mandate save a negative one, 
and of any distinction between constitutional changes and 
any other, is an accurate description of the constitutional 
practice of the country. With the last-quoted sentence, 
however, he is on considerably less safe ground. It may 
be true in practice now 5 but then, as Mr Baldwin said, we 
can never dogmatise as to what is constitutional practice, 
though we can define fairly accurately what it has been at 
any given time. What is certain, however, is that the 
House of Commons -per se at any rate before the Parlia 
ment Act has no authority in our Constitution; it is the 
King-in-Parliament, which alone has authority, and, though 
this in practice may now approximate closely to the House 
of Commons, it is largely as a result of the Parliament Act 
and not a condition precedent of its passage. 



256 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

But the views of Liberals, and indeed of the Commons 
generally, had ceased relatively to be of much importance. 
The Bill inevitably passed its Second Reading in the 
Commons, and on May ifth its Third Reading, on which 
Rufus Isaacs did not speak, was carried by a similar majority, 
A fortnight later the Lords passed the Second Reading of 
the Bill without a division, reserving the struggle for the 
single throw of the Third Reading 5 but the Second Reading 
was not carried before a brilliant and mordant attack on the 
Bill had been delivered by the former Liberal leader, Lord 
Rosebery. The Lords then proposed amendments to the 
Commons, which included provision for referenda to be 
taken on such questions as were certified by a joint committee 
to be of sufficient public importance. The proposals, how 
ever, did not commend themselves to the Liberal Party, 
and Mr Asquith wrote to Mr Balfour on July 2Oth, telling 
him that he would ask the House to reject the Lords' 
emendations and, if necessity arose, would advise the King 
to create new peers. Four days later the question of the 
amendments came before the House of Commons, but 
feeling had by this time reached such a pitch that Mr 
Asquith, on rising to address the House, was shouted down 
by the Conservatives, headed by Mr F. E. Smith and Lord 
Hugh Cecil, and subsequently Mr F. E. Smith was in his 
turn refused a hearing ; finally, after one of the most 
astounding sessions in its history, the House adjourned " in 
view of grave disorder." Ultimately, after Mr Balfour 
had moved a vote of censure to the effect that the advice 
given to His Majesty, whereby the pledge to create new 
peers was obtained, was " a gross violation of constitutional 
liberty," the Commons rejected the Lords' amendments, 
and on August 9th the Parliament Bill came before the 
Lords for its Third Reading. After a- two days 7 debate 
of considerable distinction and a tensity of feeling perhaps 
unparalleled in Parliamentary history, the motion for 
surrender was carried by seventeen votes, thirty-seven Con 
servative peers voting with the Government. The surrender 
involved the exclusion of the House of Lords from the 



PARLIAMENT BILL & HOME RULE 257 

realm of finance and the substitution of a two years' 
suspensory veto for the right of absolute veto, which had 
previously been theirs. It meant, in fact, subject to the 
unredeemed promise in the preamble to the Act " to substi 
tute for the House of Lords, as it at present exists, a Second 
Chamber constituted on a popular instead of a hereditary 
basis," the extinction of the power of the House of Lords 
and the virtual establishment of a unicameral legislature. 
It was a significant, if perhaps tactless, action on the part of 
the victors to carry a motion in the House of Commons 
for the payment of members, on the very day on which the 
Lords acknowledged defeat. 

The despatch of the Parliament Bill in the Commons left 
the Government free for the consideration of other measures. 
Of these the chief were the National Insurance Bill and 
Home Rule 5 in both the Attorney-General took a part, 
though not a leading one. The National Insurance Bill was 
introduced, and to some extent inspired by Mr Lloyd 
George. The measure, providing as it did for compulsory 
contributory insurance, marks what is practically a social 
revolution, and it is safe to say that no legislative measure has 
affected more vitally and more profoundly the lives of the 
great mass of the people. The Bill was read a second time 
in the House of Commons without a division there were 
not wanting those who said that the Conservatives failed 
to oppose it merely because they did not understand it 
and, though there was a certain amount of opposition, 
especially from the medical profession, much praise has been 
lavished on it both at the time and subsequently. The 
scheme did undoubted good in extending the principle of 
insurance, and has to some extent obviated the hardship 
which comes in the train of industrial depression; for, before 
the Act came into operation, it was estimated that only 
1,400,000 people were insured against unemployment, that 
is, about half of the number of people actually unemployed 
at the time of writing. The Act is most open to criticism 
on account of its compulsory element, and for a brilliantly 
unorthodox attack upon it the reader is recommended to 



258 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

Mr William Saunderson's " Statecraft," where the sugges 
tion is made that the Act is a first step to nationalisation of 
labour. The Bill's Second Reading was introduced on 
May 24th by Mr Buxton, President of the Board of Trade, 
and Rufus Isaacs made a long speech, giving a general 
outline of the Bill and comparing it with the German 
insurance structure. The speech contained a graceful 
reference to the helpful attitude of all parties in the House: 
" I cannot help thinking," he said, " that the speeches on 
both sides of the House during the course of this debate 
have shown the House of Commons at its best, from one 
aspect." 

The Irish question was not one with which Rufus Isaacs 
was closely identified. His race, as we have seen, was an ob 
stacle against that temperamental absorption in the issues, 
which overtook many political leaders of the day. He did not 
feel with the same passionate intensity on the subject as 
did, from their different points of view, Carson and 
Redmond. Indeed it may fairly be doubted whether by 
1911 the Liberal Party was imbued with a particularly 
passionate desire for Home Rule; there must have been 
springing up in some quarters a feeling scarcely acknow 
ledged but comprehensible, that the whole matter was a 
great nuisance. Mr Austen Chamberlain indeed referred 
in the House of Commons to the absence in Ministers, in 
discussions on this question, " of that note of deep-toned 
conviction which rang in every utterance of Mr Gladstone." 
But then Mr Gladstone had believed that it had been God's 
intention that Ireland should have Home Rule and that he 
was to be the humble instrument of its attainment; and it 
was a little difficult perhaps for the Liberal Party to enter 
tain such exalted sentiments on the subject, when they were 
well aware that, independently of divine intention, the 
Irish Party was going to insist on their instrumentality in 
the attainment of Home Rule. 

The approach of the Liberal Party, therefore and that 
of Rufus Isaacs amongst them to the question was more 
mundane. He took the view that, if the majority of the 



PARLIAMENT BILL & HOME RULE 259 

Irish people wanted self-government they should have it 
But there were clearly difficulties and dangers in such a 
project, and, therefore, it must be local self-government 
with the retention of safeguards 5 and he stressed especially 
the necessity of the retention of the supremacy of the Im 
perial Parliament and of the power of the Judicial Com 
mittee of the Privy Council to decide whether or not Bills 
introduced into the Irish Parliament were ultra vires. 
Within these limits he advocated self-government, which 
he favoured also on the practical and utilitarian grounds 
that devolution would give the Imperial Parliament more 
time for the discussion of matters of importance, and at the 
same time leave the Irish time for a fuller discussion of 
matters of purely Irish concern. The possibility of Civil 
War was a thing to be strongly deprecated, and he criticised 
the attitude of the Unionist leaders on this ground. Of 
Bonar Law he asked: " Does he mean to encourage Civil 
War? Let me add that it is no use riding off by not dealing 
with the question. You cannot do that in a matter of this 
character 5 you are either for the Crown or against it." His 
speech on the Second Reading of the Government of Ire 
land Bill epitomised his attitude to Irish settlement: " It 
can be obtained) it can undoubtedly be obtained if only you 
are a little more generous, a little less suspicious, and a 
little more trustful. Then the Irish people can live with the 
Irish in an Ireland governed according to Irish ideas * . . 
If only all will bear in mind a saying of Mr Gladstone, 
given with all his unmatched and unrivalled experience, 
' Suspicion is the besetting sin of politicians, and trust is 
often the truest wisdom,' we shall not be long before we 
arrive at a settlement." Brave words! But the settlement 
was to be postponed until long after Rufus Isaacs had been 
translated temporarily from the field of politics 3 nor did 
events even come to their crisis in the short remainder of 
his period in the House of Commons. As it turned out, 
his next and most famous connection with Ireland was to 
be the occasion of his presiding over the trial of one whose 
love for Ireland led him into treason to the Empire. 



CHAPTER XX 

THE HONOUR OF THE KING 

ALTHOUGH Sir Rufus Isaacs' Parliamentary position 
f-\ was, o course, considerably enhanced by office, he 
* *- was not yet a member of the Cabinet ; and it is pro 
bably true to say that a law officer, if he is not at the same 
time a Cabinet Minister, is more concerned with the legal 
aspect of his duties than with the direction of policy. The 
number of Crown cases in which a law officer appears, is 
generally large and of mixed interests; and Rufus Isaacs 
was especially fortunate in having, in his period as Attorney, 
several cases which from their various points of view were 
not a whit less interesting than the greatest of his cases in 
private practice. One of the earliest of them, which was 
tried just after the reassembly of the new Parliament of 
1911, had a quality, unusual in Crown cases 5 that is, it nearly 
concerned the wearer of the Crown. This was the prose 
cution of the Republican agitator, Mylius, for a criminal 
libel upon the King. 

Rumour is a thing as elusive as it is persistent 5 it can be 
traced to no source, tied down to no authority, fastened on 
no person. When the subject of the rumour is a person 
highly placed, every element of the rumour is magnified; 
its range is more extensive, its basis more fragile, its origin 
more obscure. And in proportion as such rumour is baseless 
and anonymous, it is likely to travel and to increase. It 
was a rumour of this sort, inexplicable but malignant, cruel 
but persistent, which attacked in 1910 no less a person than 
the Sovereign himself 5 and, paradoxically enough, there is 
probably nobody more defenceless in face of rumour tha~ a 
ruling monarch. In this instance, the rumour was more 
than ordinarily cruel, for it attacked his domestic life; it 

260 



THE HONOUR OF THE KING 261 

was said nobody knew by whom or for what reason or 
from what beginnings that Queen Mary was not the King's 
lawful wife. He had, they said, contracted a morganatic 
marriage previous to his marriage to her, and his royal 
marriage was, therefore, invalid. It may fairly be doubted 
whether anyone believed so mischievous and fantastic a tale 5 
but, believing it or not, there were many who listened 
attentively and repeated it assiduously. And so, like the 
prairie fire, starting, it seemed from nowhere, the story had 
soon reached giant and dangerous proportions. 

At last the story was repeated in a form direct, chal 
lenging, and offensive j and at once the challenge was taken 
up. The challenger was an obscure but obstinate young 
Republican, called Mylius, whose political beliefs had 
become somewhat of an obsession 5 to him the story was not 
merely an opportunity for idle gossip. It was rather a 
stick with which to beat the monarchy, the more effective 
because it was aimed at the person of the monarch rather 
than the principle of monarchy. And people on the whole, 
as Mr Mylius realised, are more eager to listen to the 
slander of persons than to the criticism of systems. His 
task was the easier since he occupied the proud, though 
strictly honorary, position of London distributor and corres 
pondent of a Republican journal, printed in Paris and known 
as the Liberator. To this paper, therefore, he contributed 
the information of the alleged bigamy of the King. He 
did not first make any attempt to verify the accuracy of his 
information, a course which would seem to have been 
dictated both by prudence and honesty. But then to people 
with an idee -fixe an ounce of suspicion, which supports, 
generally carries more weight than a pound of fact which 
refutes. 

The Liberator made the most of its scoop, and the 
November issue contained a lengthy diatribe: " During the 
year 1890 in the island of Malta," it ran, " the man who is 
now King of England was united in lawful, holy wedlock 
with the daughter of Sir Michael Culme-Seymour, an 
Admiral of the British Navy. Of this marriage offspring 



262 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

were born ... In order to obtain the woman of Royal blood 
for his pretended wife, George Frederick foully abandoned 
his true wife, the daughter of Sir Michael Culme-Seymour, 
of the British Navy, and entered into sham and shameful 
marriage with the daughter of the Duke of Teck in 1893. 
The said George Frederick, not having obtained any divorce 
from his first wife, who, by the common law of England 
and by the law of the Christian Church remained, and if 
she still lives remains, his true wife, committed the crime 
of bigamy, and he committed it with the aid and complicity 
of the prelates of the Anglican Church. This is the sicken 
ing and disgusting crime which has been committed by the 
English Church which has married one man to two women. 
Our very Christian King has a plurality of wives, just like 
any Mohammedan Sultan, and they are sanctified by the 
English Church. The daughter of Sir Michael Culme- 
Seymour, if she still lives, is by the unchangeable law of the 
Christian Church, as well as by the common law of England, 
the rightful Queen of England, and her children are the 
only rightful heirs to the English throne." This lengthy 
indictment was followed up more crisply the following 
month with the remark: " The Daily News of London 
informs us that the King plans to visit India with his wife. 
Would the newspaper kindly tell us which wife? " 

The story, thus confidently related, contained not a shred 
of truth. Practically the only true statement in the whole 
rigmarole was to the effect that Admiral Culme-Seymour 
had a daughter he in fact had two who had been to 
Malta. But beyond this the story was almost impudently 
innocent of fact. The King had not been in Malta after the 
year 1888 until some years after his marriage to the Queen, 
and he had certainly not been there in 1890. As to the 
Admiral's two daughters, the younger of whom had died 
unmarried in 1895 while the elder had become at the time 
of the trial Mrs Napier, they had not gone to Malta until the 
late Autumn of 1895, that is to say, some months after the 
King's marriage to the Queen. Nor had they, while in 
Malta, even met the King. The younger, in fact, had never 



THE HONOUR OF THE KING 263 

met him to talk to in her life; while Mrs Napier, about 
whom the charge was made, met him twice only before she 
sailed for Malta. The first meeting occurred when she was 
eight years old, while the second took place at a reception 
in February, 1893, where she did not even get an oppor 
tunity to speak to him. It was on this slender basis that the 
Liberator had built its crazy structure of slanderous allega 
tion j but the people responsible for its publication had a 
disregard for the facts as airy as their inattention to verifica 
tion was complete. For there had appeared in Reynolds* 
Newspaper of October 3Oth, 1910, a copy of a letter from 
Sir Arthur Bigge (subsequently Lord Stamfordham), the 
King's private secretary, referring to certain statements in 
the Brisbane Telegraph and denying on his authority the 
existence of any morganatic marriage. Mylius had enclosed 
a cutting of this to James, the editor of the Liberator, in 
Paris, who replied: " I do not attach much credence to the 
statement made by Bigge and published in Reynolds*. If 
there was no marriage, why do not these people explain why 
for years everyone has passed the word around that there 
was a marriage? We must run this matter down and get 
at the truth." Later he wrote another letter, explaining 
his rather curious method of attaining this praiseworthy 
object: " In writing the bigamy article I decided to publish 
the facts at once without waiting for further verification. 
The best and quickest way to get at the truth is to begin to 
agitate the matter. If we have not stated the facts correctly, 
we will hear what the other side has to say." 

What " the other side " had to say was a criminal prose 
cution. It was quite clear *o the legal advisers of the Crown 
that the case called for the action of the criminal law, and 
the question only remained: what form of criminal pro 
cedure would be resorted to? The question did not arise 
on account of any difficulty which the Crown felt itself to 
be in on the score of making out its case, but it came rather 
from the fact that alternative courses presented themselves. 
For it was clear, in view of the statements printed in the 
Liberator, that a prosecution for seditious libel would lie. 



264 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

But in this case the defendant could not legally enter a plea 
of justification, whereas in a case of criminal libel he could 
avail himself of this defence. That is to say, if he was 
charged with criminal libel merely, Mylius could gain the 
verdict by proving that his allegations were true and pub 
lished in the public interest; but if the charge was seditious 
libel, then the question of the truth or falsity of his allega 
tions would not be material. It was clearly desirable in this 
case that the facts should be tried 5 for, if Mylius was unable 
to enter the plea of justification and raise the issue of the 
truth of the facts which he alleged, then it would always be 
open to people to suggest afterwards that, though his words 
were seditious and therefore criminal, they were nevertheless 
true. The Crown decided, therefore, in order to prevent this, 
to prosecute him for criminal libel, thus affording him the 
opportunity of establishing the truth of what he had said. 
The method adopted was that of a criminal information 
which is, in the case of misdemeanours, an alternative to the 
ordinary procedure by indictment, from which it differs by 
being tried in the civil court and not requiring the prelimin 
aries of trial by magistrate and presentment by grand jury, 
which must precede the trial of a prisoner indicted in the 
usual way. The procedure is important because it provided 
Mylius with his one real line of defence. 

As the prosecution was by criminal information it was at 
the Law Courts and not at the Old Bailey that the trial 
took place. The excitement of the public was naturally 
intense, and great crowds gathered outside the Court early 
in the morning 5 for the word had gone round that the King 
himself would give evidence. The Court itself was thronged 
with those privileged people who were able to secure admis 
sion. The Judges' Gallery was full of ladies, Lady Darling 
being prominent among them, while others sat among the 
witnesses. Rufus Isaacs sat in counsels' seat, supported by 
the Solicitor-General, Sir John Simon, Mr Muir and Mr 
Rowlatt, and in front of counsel sat the Home Secretary, 
Mr Winston Churchill. Mylius appeared in person and 
sat at the solicitors' table between two officers in mufti, a 



THE HONOUR OF THE KING 265 

diminutive figure with square, flabby face and obstinate nose, 
poring over his papers or gazing with an air of unconcern 
around the Court. 

There was a strained attention on all sides when the 
Attorney-General rose to open the case for the Crown. 
" I am very anxious," he said, " that you should under 
stand from the outset that in these proceedings in this pro 
secution no complaint has been lodged because of the Repub 
lican sentiments and views which this gentleman and those 
associated with him in this leaflet may choose to advocate. 
A man is free in this country to advocate political opinions, 
even to raise the question of the proper form of government 
for this country. He is probably freer in this country than 
in any country in the world to publish his views and to 
circulate them 3 and so long as he keeps within the law, which 
is framed on very broad and generous lines, no complaint is 
made against him, however much you and I may differ from 
every sentiment which is expressed in the paper. But I 
want you quite clearly to appreciate that this prosecution 
is not in respect of any observations of that character which 
may have been made in this leaflet," He then went through 
the facts of the case and after about ten minutes the strained 
attention of the Court relaxed, when it was seen on what a 
foundation of sand the defendant's case was built. Since he 
had pleaded justification the onus of the proof, as Rufus 
Isaacs pointed out, was on the defendant , but they did not 
intend to wait for that, and would call witnesses of their 
own in refutation. Would the King be one of them? " The 
Solicitor-General and I, after careful consideration, have 
come to the conclusion that His Majesty has not the right, 
to vindicate his character on oath an advantage possessed 
by all his subjects. This is not a private privilege which the 
Sovereign can waive at pleasure, but it is an absolute 
incapacity attached to the Sovereign by the Constitution for 
reasons of public policy. There is, in fact, no precedent for 
the reigning monarch giving evidence in the Courts, and the 
reason is obvious. It is not, of course, a personal disability, 
for King Edward VII, as Prince of Wales, gave evidence 



266 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

in the Tranby Croft case; it is due to the fact that the Courts 
are the King's Courts, and clearly a man cannot be sub 
poenaed to give evidence in his own Courts. So Mylius 
did not have his desire gratified of cross-examining his 
Sovereign in the witness box. But he did not on that 
account suffer any injustice, for the Lord Chief Justice had 
already decided that Mylius had no facts which the King 
could prove. Nor, happily, did the King suffer from his 
disability, for his personal evidence was not necessary to a 
complete refutation of Mylius' charges. 

The case against Mylius was that he had circulated the 
libel with a full knowledge of its contents, that he had taken 
part in writing the article or in supplying the information 
on which it was based, and that he was aware that they had 
failed to get any information of the sort which would 
have been required to support the story. He must have 
been aware that the object of the libel was to destroy the 
respect felt for the Sovereign by his subjects. And in order 
to do this, the rumour, which had been set at rest by Sir 
Arthur Bigge's statement, had been deliberately revived and 
circulated with an indifference to the facts clearly demon 
strated by James' letters to Mylius. Rufus Isaacs concluded 
an unanswerable case with a peroration not unworthy of the 
occasion: " It is not for the Monarchy that the protection of 
this Court has been sought by means of this case. The 
Monarchy in this country rests upon foundations more secure 
than any that could be undermined by the attacks of James 
or the defendant Mylius. But the protection is sought 
for the King as a man, for the King as a husband, for 
the King as a father. Your protection is sought for 
the honour of the King. In submitting this case to you, I 
do not ask you to deal with it any other way than you would 
the most ordinary case, as between one citizen and another, 
The same rules of evidence and the same considerations 
must apply. You have to determine this case, and you will 
determine it, of course, upon the evidence that will be laid 
before you. You will judge it fairly and impartially. You 
will, I am sure, consider everything that can possibly be said 



THE HONOUR OF THE KING 267 

or may be urged either as defence or in any other way by the 
defendant. But you will also, I know, bear in mind this; 
that the King is none the less entitled to the verdict of a 
jury and to protection in an English Court of Justice in any 
attack made upon his honour because he happens to be the 
King of England." 

The Crown witnesses were then called, including Sir 
Michael Culme-Seymour, his sons, his daughter Mrs Napier, 
Sir Arthur Bigge, and the Crown-Advocate of Malta. The 
effect of their evidence was to demonstrate the utter impos 
sibility of the allegation 3 and Mylius did not avail himself 
of the opportunity of cross-examining any one of the 
witnesses. Consequently the case for the Crown was 
concluded by lunch time. After lunch Mylius, being asked 
if he wished to call evidence, said that he preferred to 
address the Court first on a point of law. The point which 
he raised arose from the procedure by criminal information, 
and was in purpose another effort to get the King into Court 
in person. For there are two forms of criminal information j 
an information ex officio filed by the Attorney-General, and 
an information by the Master of the Crown Office, filed by 
him at the instance of a private individual. In the second 
form of procedure, the individual instigating the prosecution 
must swear affidavits and himself appear in Court 5 the first 
is more in the nature of a public prosecution, and is generally 
used in cases of gross misdemeanour of a political character* 
It was this latter form of information which was filed against 
Mylius, and consequently he had no right to demand the 
appearance of the King in person 5 he protested, therefore, 
that as he was not being prosecuted for seditious libel and 
as the Attorney-General had stated that it was not a political 
case, he should have been proceeded against by the other 
form of criminal information, which would have entitled 
him to demand that the prosecutor should swear affidavits 
and appear personally in Court. The Lord Chief Justice, 
however, overruled his contention, reminding him that he 
had no power to subpoena the King, and that he had already 
found in Chambers that the prisoner had no facts which the 



268 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

King could prove. Whereupon Mylius, perhaps wisely, 
refused to proceed further with his case. 

" You said you wished to call evidence," Lord Alverstone 
reminded him. 

" That is my evidence, my Lord." 

" Do you wish to say anything more, Mr Mylius? " 

" No, my Lord. I rest my case there, as I have been 
denied the constitutional right of a fair trial." 

Lord Alverstone then proceeded to sum up and referred 
to Mylius' contention. " As a matter of fact," he said, " the 
evidence that could be obtained in such affidavits is before 
you to-day in the fullest measure. But that is not the ground 
upon which I declined to accede to Mr Mylius' application. 
I tell you ... it is the right of the Attorney-General in any 
matter of libel or public wrong which he thinks of sufficient 
importance to justify a criminal information, it is his right 
and in one sense his duty, to file a criminal information." 
He then summed up on the main part of the case 5 but the 
evidence was quite clear in itself, and without leaving the 
box, the jury found a verdict of guilty. Lord Alverstone 
then turned to the prisoner, who was now standing. 

" Mr Mylius," he said, " you have no right to say any 
thing to me, but if you have anything to say before I pass 
sentence upon you, I will hear you 5 but you must direct it 
solely to that." 

" My Lord," replied Mylius, stubborn to the end, " I 
have made my protest, and I have nothing more to say." 

Sentence was duly passed upon him of twelve months' 
imprisonment, and the Court thought all was over. But 
Rufus Isaacs rose, and it was seen that he held a piece of 
paper in his hand. The crowd was silent again in expecta 
tion, as he began to speak. 

" Now that sentence has been passed in this case, there 
is a matter to which I should like to refer, and which I did 
not think your Lordship would have thought it right for 
me to mention until after the verdict and sentence had been 
passed. I hold in my hands at this moment a document, 
under the hand of His Majesty the King, from which with 



THE HONOUR OF THE KING 269 

your Lordship's permission I will read." He raised the 
paper and continued. " I am authorised by His Majesty 
to state publicly that he was never married except to the 
Queen, and that he never went through any ceremony of 
marriage except with the Queen. And further that His 
Majesty would have attended to give evidence to this effect 
had he not received advice from the Law Officers of the 
Crown that it would be unconstitutional for him to do so. 
That statement, my Lord, is signed by the King himself." 

A murmur of approval greeted the conclusion of his 
statement, and the Mylius trial was over in less than a single 
day. So fizzled out one of the most impudent and fantastic 
attempts to discredit the Monarchy, that imagination can 
visualise. But Mylius, in his stubborn stupidity, had in one 
way been the instrument of good 5 for his trial enabled a 
base rumour to be finally scotched, which had been calculated 
to cast a cloud over the fair name of the British Sovereign. 



CHAPTER XXI 

RUFUS ISAACS AND MARSHALL HALL: THE SEDDONS* TRIAL 

VERY different from the quick despatch of the Mylius 
case was the protracted struggle of the Seddons' 
trial. This case perhaps the most celebrated of 
poison trials was the only murder trial in which Rufus 
Isaacs ever appeared, and in it he played the role of prose 
cuting counsel. His talents indeed were not those of a 
defending counsel in a murder trial 5 he had not that 
gorgeousness of eloquence nor that subtle sense of infusing 
his own personality into the case which are the marks of the 
great criminal advocate. These were the qualities pre 
eminently of Marshall Hall, who was chosen as his 
antagonist in this trial. Never perhaps has there been a 
sharper contrast of methods and personalities. Both men 
were handsome; but Rufus Isaacs had the aquiline features 
of his race, and Marshall Hall had the broad flat features 
of the Anglo-Saxon. Both men were persuasive; but Rufus 
Isaacs' was the persuasiveness of accumulated argument, 
Marshall HalPs of tempestuous oratory. Both were men 
of vigour 5 but Rufus Isaacs' vigour was cloaked and con 
served by his quietness of manner, Marshall HalPs accen 
tuated and exhausted by the nervous tension of his 
disposition. Marshall Hall took by storm, while Rufus 
Isaacs laid siege; Marshall Hall was a crusader, Rufus 
Isaacs was a tactician; Marshall Hall was a Rupert, Rufus 
Isaacs was a Cunctator. 

The man who was responsible for bringing about the 
clash of these two personalities was himself a personality 
of no small interest. Frederick Henry Seddon was at first 
glance one of those unattractive, worthy people, who are 
moderately successful in worthy, but unexciting, professions. 
He was, in point of fact, an insurance superintendent of 

270 



THE SEDDONS' TRIAL 271 

middle ^age, who had progressed steadily up the ladder of 
prosperity, acquiring in the ascent a wife, Margaret, an 
attractive mild-eyed creature, a daughter, Maggie, and a 
fourteen-roomed house in Tollington Street, situated in one 
of those London suburbs which generally seem to acquire 
notoriety through the medium of an occasional murder trial, 
but do in fact regularly exist in discreet and unadvertised 
respectability. But in spite of Tollington Street and the 
fourteen rooms, the life of the little household can hardly 
have been one of enthusiastic and uninterrupted felicity. It 
was rumoured of Seddon that he had a way with the ladies, 
and no doubt if his tastes lay in this direction, he would 
have found means of gratifying them. But, however this 
may be, he had other faults, even more destructive of con 
nubial happiness. He was hard, avaricious, mean, tyrannical 
and unsympathetic j and he appeared to glory in these 
qualities, thinking them to be a proof of additional cleverness 
in himself. Marshall Hall in an adroit understatement, 
said of him: " he is a northcountryman, a thorough man of 
business and not a man of sentiment." A more detailed, if 
less sympathetic, account describes him as " a shrewd, acute, 
keen person ... a man full of cunning and craft, actuated 
by greed and covetousness." But perhaps the best insight 
of what life must have been like in the household was 
revealed unconsciously by Mrs Seddon in her evidence, 
when she said, " he never used to take any notice when I 
said anything to him 5 he always had other things to think 
of." 

Poor Margaret Seddon had other things to think of too, 
for, in spite of his accumulating prosperity, Seddon thought 
it desirable to keep only a general servant, and thus much 
of the work of the household devolved upon Mrs Seddon 
and her daughter, Maggie. In spite of this, however, Seddon 
increased his household by taking in a lodger, one Miss 
Barrow, a woman of forty-nine, possessed of some modest 
means and a querulous temper, which had caused her to 
quarrel with her cousins the Vonderahes, with whom she 
had previously lodged not far from Tollington Park. Her 



272 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

advent to 63 Toilington Park made an increase of two in 
the house, for she brought with her a small orphan boy, 
called Ernie Grant, who appeared to be the only human 
thing for which this miserly and rather disreputable woman 
seemed to entertain any affection. She paid Seddon 12/6 
a week for her lodging, with an additional y/- to Maggie 
for attending her. This was but a modest outlay for a 
woman of her means, for she was the owner of the lease 
of the Buck's Head public house and the barber's shop next 
door, in addition to 1,600 of 3^ per cent. India Stock. 
This property, however, did not remain long in her hands 
after she took up her abode with Seddon, who soon obtained 
a considerable empire over her mind, and induced her to 
conclude a transaction with him, by which she made an 
assignment of her property to him on condition that he paid 
her an annuity of some 155. This he duly paid in monthly 
instalments in gold 3 and Miss Barrow's stock of gold was 
later considerably augmented when, in a scare as to the 
solvency of savings-banks, she withdrew her deposit of 216 
from the Finsbury and City of London Savings Bank, and 
had it paid to her in gold. 

There was, therefore, at any rate the presumption that 
there was a good deal of gold in the house at the beginning 
of September, 1911, when, after about fourteen months' 
residence with the Seddons, Miss Barrow was taken ill. 
It was a distressing illness involving sickness and diarrhoea, 
but Miss Barrow had at least the advantages of the medical 
skill of Dr Sworn and the devoted nursing of Mrs Seddon. 
But, in spite of this, there was no noticeable improvement 
in Miss Barrow's condition and, what with the heat and the 
offensive nature of her symptons Miss Barrow's room must 
have been a far from pleasant place j this, however, it may 
be observed, did not prevent her from having Ernie Grant 
to sleep in her bed. On September loth a letter arrived 
from Seddon's sister, Mrs Longley, asking if she and her 
niece might stay at Toilington Park. Seddon wrote back 
to say that he was not too conveniently placed for receiving 
visitors, but that they might come if they cared to take 



THE SEDDONS' TRIAL 273 

pot-luck ^accordingly on the nth the Longleys arrived. 
But by this time Miss Barrow was worse, and by the evening 
of the 1 3th she was suffering great pain. Mr Seddon had 
gone out to the theatre and returned at about 11.30, rather 
put out by a dispute with the box-office clerk, to hear that in 
his absence the wretched Miss Barrow had crawled out of 
bed in agony, wailing " I am dying." He then went up 
to see her more than once, and found her each time in 
dreadful pain. At last she crawled out of bed and held 
herself on the ground in her agony, and Ernie Grant called 
out "Chickie" for this was his nickname for her " is 
out of bed." The Seddons came up and sent the terrified 
boy to his own room, while Mrs Seddon sat down by Miss 
Barrow's bed and Seddon took up his position outside on the 
landing. And so they stayed through the night, Mrs Seddon 
by the bed and Seddon reading and smoking on the landing, 
with the bedroom door open. Miss Barrow then fell into 
a heavy sleep for a time, snoring heavily, and the dawn 
broke to find her still alive. But shortly after six in the 
morning the breathing became more violent, and she was 
found to be dead. 

Seddon, immediately after seeing the doctor, character 
istically though scarcely creditably, set to work on a thorough 
search of the house to see what cash he could discover; but, 
in spite of the presumption that Miss Barrow must have 
collected a good stock of gold in the house, Seddon found 
or so he said only about 10. He decided, therefore, 
that what with medical bills and other expenses, it would 
only be possible to give the dead woman a public funeral 
in a common grave. It might have been supposed that, as 
Miss Barrow had the right of burial in a family vault, 
Seddon would have at once informed her relatives, the 
Vonderahes, who might perhaps have desired to make good 
the necessary expense j but Miss Barrow and he himself had 
been on bad terms with the Vonderahes, and he did not 
send round to acquaint them, although they lived but a 
very short distance away. He did, however, as he alleged, 
write a letter to inform them, and he was certainly able 



274 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

to produce a carbon copy of it to reinforce his statement; 
but the Vonderahes never received any such letter. Conse 
quently Seddon set about the preparations for a funeral 
himself. He had received on the morning of Miss Barrow's 
death a certificate of death from Dr Sworn to the effect that 
she had died of epidemic diarrhoea, which that obliging 
practitioner had sent without the formality of a further 
visit. The actual business of the funeral arrangements gave 
Seddon a chance to show that his business acumen was by 
no means affected in moments of stress, for by a friendly 
agreement with the undertaker he received a commission of 
12/6 for introducing the business to him. The body was 
removed from the house, after Mrs Seddon had pressed 
her lips to the dead woman's forehead in last salute; and 
on the Saturday following her death Miss Barrow was 
buried at Finchley. 

In spite of the miscarriage of Seddon's letter and his 
reluctance to have personal relations with them, the 
Vonderahes soon discovered their cousin's death. They 
called, therefore, to see Seddon, who was not very informa 
tive, taking his stand upon the ground that, as they were 
not the next of kin, he was under no obligation to make 
full disclosure. They did find out, however, that she had 
surrendered her property to Seddon in exchange for an 
annuity, that she had made a will with Seddon's assistance 
scarcely three days before her death, and that only 10 had 
been discovered in the house. These facts were enough to 
make them suspicious, and other facts were revealed which 
seemed to lend corroboration. The upshot was that on 
November i5th the body was exhumed, and examined by 
Dr (now Sir Bernard) Spilsbury and Dr (later Sir William) 
Willcox. On November 29th, in a further examination by 
Dr Willcox, after the inquest had been adjourned, he came 
to the conclusion that there had been more than two grains 
of arsenic in the body at time of death, which pointed to 
death from acute arsenical poisoning as a result of a fatal 
dose taken less than three days before death. This was 
followed on December 4th by the arrest of Seddon. 



THE SEDDONS' TRIAL 275 

" Absurd," he said, when they came to arrest him. " What 
a terrible charge, wilful murder! It is the first of our 
family that has ever been accused of such a crime." The 
remark was quaint, but showed that he retained his instinct 
for respectability even in moments of crisis, and his practical 
nature was not far behind for he added, " Are you going to 
arrest my wife as well? Have they found arsenic in the 
body? She has not done this herself. It was not carbolic 
acid, was it, as there was some in her room, and Sanitas is 
not poison, is it? " 

Two days later there occurred an incident which was to 
be of considerable importance in the trial. Maggie Seddon 
was sent by her father's, solicitor to a chemist in Tollington 
Park to buy some fly-papers. Now the theory of the prose 
cution was that Miss Barrow had been poisoned by an 
arsenical solution extracted from fly-papers, and Seddon's 
solicitor wanted the fly-papers for the purpose of analysis. 
But the chemist, a Mr Price, refused to serve her, as he did 
not wish to be mixed up in the case; later when the police 
examined her, Maggie Seddon said that she had not been 
to Price's shop to buy fly-papers. This was untrue, although 
it was true that she had not succeeded in buying any. Now 
her visit to Price's shop, or indeed her denial of it, were not 
matters in themselves of very great importance to the trial; 
but what was of importance was another visit to a chemist 
which Maggie was supposed to have made. This was the 
visit to Thorley's shop on August 26th, when she was 
alleged to have bought the fly-papers which were used for 
the poisoning of Miss Barrow. Maggie denied this visit, 
but the force of her denial was weakened by her untrue 
denial of her visit to Price's shop. The visit to Thorley's 
shop, however, was not strongly supported by evidence, for 
Thorley who had previously seen Maggie Seddon twice at 
his house, for she knew his daughter had only identified 
Maggie as the girl who had bought the fly-papers, from a 
crowd of twenty women, of whom only two were girls with 
their hair down their backs, after he had seen a picture of her 
in the papers in connection with the case. The whole business 



276 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

of the visit to Thorley's shop rested too much on probabilities 
and was perhaps the weakest and most unsatisfactory link 
in the long chain of evidence which the prosecution succeeded 
in forging. 

But this is to anticipate. The inquest was resumed on 
December i4th, and the jury brought in a verdict of wilful 
murder by some person or persons unknown. Over Christ 
mas and the New Year the magisterial hearing took place 
and on January I5th Mrs Seddon was arrested too. On 
February 2nd, 1912, they were both committed for trial, 
and just over a month later the Seddons took their place in 
the dock at the Old Bailey to answer the charge of murder. 
It was no ordinary murder, if murder it was; it was no 
sudden killing in a violent affray, no crime passionel, no 
sex-starved killing by some deranged, unhappy creature. It 
was a murder, if murder it was, planned by an able man for 
the sake of gain; a murder, prompted by no gust of passion, 
but dictated by the balancing of certain gain against 
improbable detection. It was a murder, if murder it was, 
that was different; and it was because of its emotional 
coldness, because of the absence of those evidences of lack 
of self-control, because it did not provide those elements 
which usually grip the public interest, that popular attention 
was fascinated by it, as by some repulsive, but strangely 
hypnotic reptile. There were other things, too, besides the 
nature of Seddon and the character with which he invested 
proceedings, to arrest the attention of the public. There 
were mysteries to be explained, and difficult points at issue, 
which ensured a good fight on the facts; and there were the 
combatants, too, who could make a good fight of it the 
Attorney-General, whose first murder trial it was, but who 
brought with him the great reputation which his private 
practice had conferred upon him, supported by that expert 
team of Treasury counsel, Messrs. Muir, Rowlatt, and 
Travers Humphreys, and opposed by Marshall Hall, rich 
in experience of criminal trials and the most eloquent 
advocate of his day. Mrs Seddon was independently repre 
sented by Mr (now Sir) Gervais Rentoul, but the young 



THE SEDDONS' TRIAL 277 

counsel wisely allowed Marshall Hall to encroach a good 
deal upon his territory. 

The hearing began with Rufus Isaacs' opening speech, a 
succinct outline of the facts, which occupied two hours. The 
Court was crowded to hear him and remained so during the 
rather dreary evidence of Miss Barrow's financial relations 
with ^ the Seddons. On the fourth day of the trial, however, 
public interest^ quickened, and in the afternoon so great was 
the throng of junior members of the Bar that many of them 
sat on the floor. The occasion was the cross-examination of 
Dr Willcox by Marshall Hall, which furnished one of the 
most acute and penetrative cross-examinations of expert 
witness ever heard in the Courts ; but then Marshall Hall 
had the advantage, not shared by many counsel, of being 
himself something of an expert on scientific questions. The 
cross-examination was of first importance because it raised 
a question prior to that of Seddon's guilt or innocence j it 
raised the question was there a murder at all? For 
Marshall Hall's theory was that death had taken place not, 
as the prosecution maintained, from acute arsenical poison 
ing, but from chronic arsenical poisoning plus epidemic 
diarrhoea j the difference, of course, is that whereas in acute 
arsenical poisoning the fatal dose must have been taken 
shortly before death, chronic arsenical poisoning may be 
merely the aggravating and decisive factor, working on some 
other main cause in this case the epidemic diarrhoea. It 
followed, therefore, that if Marshall Hall's theory could 
be established, the case against Seddon collapsed. He did, 
in fact, come within an ace of establishing it. Dr Willcox 
had used the Marsh test to decide upon the amount of arsenic 
in ^the body at time of death ; for, it being impossible to 
weigh the entire amount of arsenic in the body, it is 
necessary to extract a specimen from the viscera and weigh 
that, then multiply it by the multiplying factor indicated 
by the Marsh test, which could be as much as two thousand. 
That is to say, the slightest inaccuracy or uncertainty of 
calculation would be magnified enormously in the final 
result. Now Dr Willcox had estimated a quantity of 2,01 



278 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

grains of arsenic in the body at time of death, and this, as 
he told the Attorney-General in his examination-in-chief, 
was in his view part of a dose of five grains 5 and two grains 
is a fatal dose. The first part of Marshall HalPs cross- 
examination of Dr Willcox, therefore, really amounted to 
an emphasising of the minuteness of accuracy, necessary to 
such tests, especially when the multiplying factor is large. 
" There is not," he said, " sufficient evidence for you to say 
that those quantities are based upon a sufficiently accurate 
basis to enable you to rely on them absolutely." He then 
proceeded to ask him with careful unconcern as to the dis 
position of the arsenic in the hair. The importance of this 
was that if the amount in the " distal " (i.e. y further) ends 
was large, relatively to the amount in the " proximal " ends, 
that is the ends nearest the roots, it would mean that the 
arsenic had been taken over a period, and that death was 
due to chronic, and not acute, arsenical poisoning. Marshall 
Hall was able to gain from Dr Willcox the admission that 
the distal ends of the hair did in fact contain such large 
quantities of arsenic, relative to the proximal ends, as to 
suggest that arsenic had been taken over a period. 

This result was a triumph for Marshall Hall, but not 
the complete triumph which it would have been if he could 
have convinced Dr Willcox himself. Dr Willcox, however, 
was not convinced, and, feeling certain that there must be 
an alternative and correct interpretation, he sought for it in 
his mind and hit upon it during the actual course of the 
cross-examination. It was just before proceedings drew to 
a close on the fourth day when, in answer to a question of 
counsel's as to the metabolic changes in the hair, he quietly 
interposed: " There is one point which I have not 
mentioned, which I ought to mention here, which rather 
affects these results, and that is that when I took the hair 
for analysis it was at the second examination, and the hair 
had been lying in the coffin and it was more or less soaked 
in the juice of the body." This theory, if true, smashed 
the whole structure of Marshall HalPs careful edifice, and 
he strove hard against it j but Dr Willcox was certain that he 



THE SEDDONS' TRIAL 279 

was right this time, and the simple expedient of taking 
somebody else's hair and soaking it in the liquid in which 
Miss Barrow had rested afforded ocular demonstration that 
the effect was the same. Thus the explanation was much 
simpler than Marshall Hall had imagined and by its very 
simplicity it carried conviction all the more readily to the 
jury; but he had come very near to winning the case for 
his client in the first round. 

Marshall Hall had failed to prove that the mode of 
death was such as could not have been murder; and the 
remaining question was the more personal one did Seddon 
commit murder? The onus of proof was, of course, on the 
prosecution, and at the end of the evidence for the prose 
cution Marshall Hall submitted that there was no case to 
go to the jury; and, although Mr Justice Bucfcnill ruled 
that there was, the case for the prosecution was by no means 
cast-iron. The chief difficulty was that it rested entirely 
upon circumstantial evidence; nobody had seen Seddon ad 
minister poison, nobody could even suggest any particular 
occasion when he had actually done so. In point of fact, of 
course, it was unlikely that there could be; but nevertheless 
juries are notoriously and rightly, reluctant to convict of 
murder on circumstantial evidence alone. The defence, 
therefore^ was on tolerably strong ground,, and Marshall 
Hall, in his short opening speech went so far as to urge that 
the commission of the crime showed a knowledge of poisons 
that could not be attributed to Seddon. Besides, if he was 
so hardened and so expert as an acceptance of the prose 
cution's view would make him out to be, then would he not 
certainly have completed the business by getting a second 
certificate from the doctor and having the body cremated? 
Then there was Thorley's identification of Maggie Seddon, 
which Marshall Hall urged was inadequate, and other points 
of criticism, which taken together would afford serious 
obstacles in the way of the prosecution. In the circumstances, 
Marshall Hall was not anxious to put Seddon into the box, 
for this would give the Attorney a chance to cross-examine 
him; and Marshall Hall realised that Seddon was one of 



280 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

those men whose intellectual arrogance too often leads them 
to commit themselves. There was nothing about him either 
that would make a favourable impression on the jury; his 
coldness, his calculation, his hardness, his very ability or, 
at any rate, the way in which it was bent to subserve his 
avarice all the things which he considered to be marks of 
his especial distinction, were to the jury, viewed against the 
background of Death, nauseous and repellent. But Seddon 
had neither misgiving nor reticence j he would show how 
clever he was and defy the Attorney-General in a dialectical 
duel with any weapons of which he should choose to avail 
himself. Now Marshall Hall, as we have seen in an earlier 
connection, was very sensitive on the question of putting his 
clients into the witness box on criminal charges; he would 
advise and warn, but he would not try to compel. Advice 
and warning were likely to have but little effect on Seddon's 
buoyancy and he duly entered the box, which he was to 
occupy for over eleven hours. 

He had already stamped his personality on the case and 
on the Court, and there were great queues outside the Court 
to see him in the box. His demeanour during his four hour 
examination during part of which Marshall Hall sat, 
owing to the strain and fatigue which the case was imposing 
on him was easy and confident; the examination-in-chief 
was entirely successful, for Seddon's conceit was not of the 
affected character of a previous client of Marshall HalPs, 
Robert Wood, whose examination-in-chief, Mr Marjori- 
banks informs us, Marshall Hall found more difficult than 
any cross-examination. The examination lasted from the 
Friday afternoon into the Saturday morning and, as soon as 
it was concluded, the Attorney rose to cross-examine. The 
Court was still with the nervous silence of expectation, as 
for a moment the eyes of the two antagonists rested on 
each other, like two wrestlers manoeuvring for the first 
throw 5 but Seddon, though he knew that the lithe figure 
and aquiline features confronting him represented the hero 
of a hundred cross-examinations and the conqueror of 
Whittaker Wright, remained serene and unperturbed. It 



THE SEDDONS' TRIAL 281 

was a great moment in his life 5 let the Attorney-General 
do his worst. 

The first question was asked, almost a formal one: 

"Miss Barrow lived with you from July 26th, 1910, 
to September I4th, 1911? " 

" Yes." 

And then the second question, just as softly, just as 
simply: 

" Did you like her? " 

It was the cleverest question conceivable in the circum 
stances, and the one that Seddon least expected. He had 
come into the box prepared to defend and to explain, to 
answer logically and arithmetically, and here right at the 
beginning was a question which could not be so answered. 
Rufus Isaacs had torn down the protective palisade of 
figures, behind which Seddon, the business man, proposed 
to shelter j he would return to deal with these aspects, but 
first the jury must see Seddon, the man. And the simple 
question " did you like her? " was one that baffled Seddon, 
the astute man of affairs. 

" Did I like her? " he repeated. 

" Yes, that is the question." 

Seddon paused and then replied: " She was not a woman 
that you could be in love with, but I deeply sympathised 
with her." 

In point of fact, Seddon's coldness was strongly brought 
out in cross-examination, and told against him with the jury. 
Thus when later in the cross-examination Rufus Isaacs asked 
him, in. reference to the doctor not having seen the dead 
woman, whether he did not want for his own satisfaction 
to make sure that the woman was dead, he answered: " I 
had no desire. I had no idea at all in the matter." 

The cross-examination was lengthy, six hours in all, and 
traversed in detail the whole range and complexity of the 
case. It dealt, for instance, with Miss Barrow's money 
affairs and her attachment to the boy, Ernie Grant. 

" But she certainly had some desire to leave property to 
the boy, had she not? " 



282 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

" She was satisfied that the boy had a good home with 
me," was the stubborn answer. 

There was, too, the question of the annuity which had 
been very profitable to Seddon, and for which he had given 
no security 5 there was the will of September nth which he 
had drawn up in his own handwriting ; there was the mis 
leading letter to the Vonderahes on September 14-th " I 
must also inform you that she made a will on the nth 
instant, leaving all she died possessed of to Hilda and Ernie 
Grant. " 

" You meant that as the formal document from you as 
executor of the estate . . . and if they had not suspected you 
that would have been the end of the thing? " 

" I don't see that." 

"Not even now? " 

" I do now." 

" That letter is not a very frank statement, is it? " 

a That is the view you have taken of it and I have 
agreed." 

" I understand you agree with that? " 

" Well, I could have put more in the letter evidently." 

" It would have taken less words to have said that you 
had sold her the annuity and had got the property? " 

" But what difference did that make? " 

" Don't argue with me," said Rufus Isaacs sternly; for 
witnesses are in the unfortunate position of having to speak 
when they are spoken to and not ask questions. 

" And then did you say this," asked the Attorney 
(referring to Seddon's interview with Vonderahe). " I had 
nothing to do with it? " 

" No, I did not 5 because he would find me out in a lie, 
would he not? " 

" But you see it takes a great many inquiries to find out 
some lies," was the suave but ominous response. 

Seddon was straitly cross-examined, too, about his conduct 
on that last night. 

" Why did you want to stay up outside the door when your 
wife was dozing and the patient was sleeping peacefully? " 



THE SEDDONS' TRIAL 283 

" Because my sleep was broken." 

" Was it not because you were afraid the end was coming 
and you didn't want your wife to be alone? " 

" Certainly not. My sleep was broken, being up the best 
part of the night off and on, backwards and forwards." 

" There was the question, too, of Miss Barrow's money 5 
what had become of that? Now we will take off the 10 
that you paid her on September 2nd, and that will leave 
402 in gold, according to the evidence which we have got? " 

" Yes." 

" Traced to her in eight months, to the end of August, 
1911? " 

" Yes." 

" Now, of that 402, as I understand your statement, 
when you came to look for the money on the morning of her 
death, you found threepence in copper in her purse? " 

"Yes." 

" And that is all? 

"Yes." 

" Did you make any inquiry about the money? " 

" I hadn't any idea regarding it." 

" Then does that mean you made no inquiry? " 

During the whole long cross-examination Seddon re 
mained calm and collected, parrying the thrusts of his 
expert opponent. Only twice in the entire six hours did he 
show any trace of feeling. Once was in reference to the 
suggestion that his assistants saw him counting Miss Barrow's 
gold in his office. 

" The prosecution are suggesting that I am dealing with 
the deceased woman's gold; that I should bring it down 
from the top of the house to the bottom into the office in the 
presence of my assistants and count it up? Is it feasible? " 

" I do not want to argue with you, but you know that 
sometimes people do very foolish things? " 

" Well, I am not a degenerate. That would make it out 
that I was a greedy, inhuman monster." 

" What? " 

"That I am a greedy, inhuman monster, or something 



284 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

with a very degenerate mind, to commit a vile crime such as 
the prosecution suggest, and then bringing the dead woman's 
money down and counting it in the presence of my two 
assistants, and flouting it like that. The suggestion is 
scandalous." 

The outburst would probably have done Seddon good 
with the jury, for it showed that he was not the heartless, 
passionless automaton that his general demeanour would 
suggest. But he undid the good effect by adding in his usual 
tone, and with an almost defiant sneer: " I would have all 
day to count the money." 

The second occasion on which Seddon's feelings broke 
through the icy detachment of his demeanour, showed him 
in a more human light than at any other time in the whole 
course of the trial. Rufus Isaacs was reading to him the 
statement of the police-officer as to his conduct on arrest. 

" And then," he said, " it goes on, c Are you going to 
arrest my wife as well? ' " 

" No, not then. I said c Can you not take me home and 
let my wife and family know that I am arrested? ' He said 
c You need not worry about that, you will see your wife at 
the station j I am coming back for her.' I said c Are you 
going to arrest her as well? ' That, I swear before God, is 
the words that took place, and I have been waiting for the 
opportunity to get into this box for to relate the true words 
that were spoken on this occasion." 

" All the statements that you are making are statements 
before God." 

" Yes, sir, I recognise that. I want to emphasise that, 
because I do not look upon it as mateml it does not make 
me innocent or guilty, but I want the truth and I was very 
much upset at the North London Police Court when the 
evidence was given. . . ." 

" I will read you the statement and you can tell me " 

But Seddon broke in with vehemence: " There is nothing 
hurt me more than that since my arrest." 

" Listen to the question," said the Attorney. But the tide 
of Seddon's indignation, once unloosed, was not easily to be 



THE SEDDONS' TRIAL 285 

dammed. " Do you think," he broke in again, " that a man 
with five children would want to see his wife arrested, and 
a baby ill which had been to the doctor that day? " 

" It is not suggested that you wanted to see your wife 
arrested," interposed Sir Rufus. 

" Yes, it is suggested. c Are you going to arrest my wife 
too? ' That was my greatest concern. It has been the 
greatest trial of my life since she has been arrested, and we 
have neglected the five children." 

The unfeigned indignation of Seddon, as a family man, 
undoubtedly did much more to help him with the jury than 
all the acumen on which he so prided himself. These two 
episodes were unique, isolated moments of passion in his 
great and unvarying imperturbability. In the course of 
cross-examination, Rufus Isaacs had steadily gained, and had 
pierced his flank in many places. It was not the devastating 
business that the cross-examination of Whittaker Wright had 
been, for Seddon had not been annihilated. Since the 
evidence was entirely circumstantial, the cross-examination 
could hardly have the quality of sharp finality. Rufus 
Isaacs had bent his efforts to establishing the existence of 
motive and of opportunity, and of showing from the 
evidence of subsequent conduct that Seddon had yielded to 
temptation and availed himself of the opportunity. And so 
successful had he been that, when Seddon left the box, the 
shadow of the gallows had crept appreciably nearer than 
when he had entered it in the jaunty confidence of three days 
ago. 

Seddon was succeeded in the box by his wife, who made 
a very different impressioi . For whereas Seddon's whole 
demeanour had been one of challenge, Mrs Seddon's con 
stituted an appeal to the sympathy of the jury. He had 
been strong, reserved, arrogant and unemotional 5 but she, 
with her nervous habit of smiling, her low voice which was 
so difficult to hear that the Judge had to move his chair 
nearer and then repeat her answers to the Court her pretty, 
refined, rather faded appearance, had a general air of pathos 
which could not but appeal. She broke down when ques- 



286 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

tioned about Miss Barrow's death by Mr Rentoul, and 
exclaimed to Rufus Isaacs with the frenzied intensity of the 
weak: " She was not dying, certainly. I never wish any 
body dead. I thought too much of Miss Barrow. I waited 
hand and foot on her. I did all I possibly could to get her 
better." It was clear that the -jury would differentiate 
between her and her husband, not so much because of any 
thing she had said for in her evidence she had to admit to 
several dishonesties but because it was quite clear that 
neither in desire nor in the strength of execution was she a 
murderess. Whatever she might have done had been done 
as the merest accessory 5 the eye, the hand, the brain, and 
the will were her husband's. 

The evidence for the defence closed on the ninth day of 
the trial, and daily public interest was growing keener and 
more excited. The Court had been especially crowded 
during the Seddons' evidence, and many women were in 
Court to hear Mrs Seddon. At the conclusion of the 
evidence came what, from the spectatorial point of view at 
any rate, was likely to be the most enthralling portion of the 
trial Marshall Hall's final speech for Seddon. 

His speech was worthy of himself and of the occasion; it 
was a magnificent plea to the jury not to " sweep these two 
people off their feet by the waves of prejudice, and then 
drown them in the backwash of suspicion." " If you are 
against these people," he said, " and if you think the 
evidence is against them, I do not say for one moment there 
is not sufficient evidence of opportunity, and sufficient evi 
dence of motive 5 " but of real proof there was none. All 
Seddon's actions could be, and had been, explained by refer 
ence to ordinary commonplace consideration of business and 
domestic life: And yet the prosecution was insisting on an 
explanation, which demanded all sorts of assumptions j it 
demanded the assumption of an expert knowledge of arsenic 
on the part of Seddon, " and yet . . . you have got to assume 
that, having made this extract of arsenic for the purpose of 
poisoning this woman, he never discovered the one thing 
which is the characteristic of arsenic, which can be found in 



THE SEDDONS' TRIAL 287 

any book dealing with arsenic, that it has a preservative 
effect upon the body, and therefore from that point of view, 
and from the prisoner's point of view, it is one of the most 
dangerous poisons that can be used. You have got to assume 
that he was entirely ignorant of that, or you must assume 
this, that he could have been such a madman as not to take 
advantage of the opportunity of cremating her, which would 
destroy all traces of the crime . * . All these assumptions 
are to be drawn against these two people because of two 
things. First of all, because the male prisoner benefits by 
the death of the deceased in that the annuity ceases, and 
secondly, there is the suggestion and here I submit that 
there is no evidence at all worthy of your consideration 
that Miss Barrow was in possession of a large sum of money 
at the time of her death, and that they murdered her in 
order to obtain it ... Gentlemen, eight assumptions have to 
be made against these two people. Am I not justified in 
saying that every one of them is a violent assumption? " 
It was a convincing and comprehensive speech, not shirking 
the issue of fact on any point, and studded with passages 
of great eloquence. After four hours' close development 
of the argument he expanded into a magnificent and moving 
peroration: " Gentlemen/' he said, " I often think, when I 
look at the great figure of Justice which towers over all our 
judicial proceedings, when I see the blind figure holding the 
scales I often think that possibly the bandage over the 
eyes of Justice has a two-fold meaning. Not only is it there 
so that the course of Justice should not be warped by pre 
judice or undue influence one way or the other j but some 
times I think it is put there so that those who gaze should 
not see the look of infinite pity which is in the eyes of 
Justice behind that bandage, the look of infinite mercy which 
must always temper justice in a just man. Gentlemen, in 
that hand of Justice are held two scales, and you are the 
people to watch and decide, as the inanimate hand of Justice 
holds those scales aloft it is you who decide what is the 
result of the weighing . . . Gentlemen, the great scientists 
who have been here have told us much of the manuals of 



288 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

science, and of the deductions that can be made from science. 
There is one thing the scientists have never yet been able 
to find, never yet been able to discover with all their research 
and all their study, and that is, how to replace the little 
vital spark that we call life. Upon your verdict here 
depends, so far as I am concerned, the life of this man. If 
your verdict is against him, that vital spark will be extin 
guished, and no science known to the world can ever replace 
it" 

Marshall Hall sat down at 3.10 on the afternoon of the 
ninth day of the trial ; Gervais Rentoul, for Mrs Seddon, 
wisely relied mainly on the great effort of Marshall HalPs 
speech and himself made only a short appeal, stressing the 
emotional aspect. He finished at 345 and it was Rufus 
Isaacs' turn to wind up for the Crown. He was thus 
separated from Marshall Hall's great effort by only half 
an hour, but wisely made no attempt to recapture, or to 
challenge, the atmosphere of it. It would not, of course, 
have been proper for him to do so, for prosecuting counsel 
may not plead with the whole-hearted ardour which had 
informed Marshall HalPs speech. But in any case he would 
not have done so; for, as we have seen, he fought with 
different weapons. In his own sphere, of great eloquence 
and passionate appeal, Marshall Hall was supreme j but it 
was not the province of Rufus Isaacs. In fact in his opening, 
Rufus Isaacs seemed almost to exaggerate the difference, 
for his manner was quiet, even for him, and he hesitated for 
his words. But, as he proceeded, it was seen how entirely 
he had the case in hand; and steadily, surely, almost 
inexorably, he forged that " chain of gossamer links joined 
together with immense ingenuity," which hanged Seddon 
in the end. 

There were two main questions for the Court to consider: 
first, whether Miss Barrow died of acute arsenical poisoning, 
and, secondly, if so, whether Seddon had administered it. 
On the first point, in view of the evidence of Dr Willcox 
and Dr Spilsbury there could not be much doubt ; indeed, 
Dr Rosenheim, the defence's expert witness, had* not been 



THE SEDDONS' TRIAL 289 

called " for the simple reason that he could not contradict 
anything that Dr Willcox and Dr Spilsbury had said." The 
Attorney-General then turned to the second and main issue ; 
was Seddon guilty of murder? And here, there being, as we 
have seen, no direct evidence, he relied on establishing bit 
by bit and with gathering force, the evidence of motive, 
opportunity, and subsequent conduct. Motive? There was 
the reversion of Miss Barrow's property, which had been 
made over to him in exchange for an annuity, without a 
single scrap of writing. " I am going to suggest to you," 
said Rufus Isaacs, " of course for your consideration, that 
she had no notion during the whole of this time that she 
was parting with her property, with her gold, or with her 
notes, and had never intended to get rid of gold or notes in 
the ordinary course of things . . . that she meant to retain it 
for her boy, whom, in the maternal instinct, no doubt, of the 
spinster heart, she was cherishing, and to whom she had 
become devoted." But, in point of fact, poor Ernie Grant 
did not benefit greatly by Miss Barrow's death ; it was 
Seddon who benefited by her death, and the circumstances 
of it connected him with it. The prosecution's case was that 
she had been poisoned by a solution from arsenical fly-papers, 
administered by Seddon, and that the fly-papers had been 
purchased by Maggie Seddon on behalf of her father for 
that purpose on August 26th. The defence contested this 
purchase, and claimed that Thorley's identification of Maggie 
Seddon was not to be relied upon 5 but if he was right, and 
she did make the purchase, then " all the views put forward 
by the defence break down and the case for the defence 
crumbles 'away because no attempted explanation has been 
given as to why it was that those fly-papers should have been 
asked for on August 26th." And why should Thorley have 
made an inaccurate identification? He had no interest in 
the case except to keep out of it; and he remembered the 
sale specifically because she had asked for four packets, and 
he had only been able to give her one as that was all he had 
in stock. If this was the true explanation, it fitted in very 
well with the dates, for Miss Barrow had fallen ill on Sep- 



290 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

tember ist. But the story of the defence was that Mrs 
Seddon had bought arsenical fly-papers on September 4th 
or 5th (i.e.) some days after Miss Barrow fell ill), and that 
these four fly-papers had been put into four separate saucers, 
from which they were changed into one soup-plate on the 
1 2th 5 the suggestion implied was that, after the fly-papers 
were put into the soup-plate, Miss Barrow, in her raging 
thirst, had got out of bed and drunk the water on top of 
the fly-papers. But " during the whole of this case so far, 
what seems to have been forgotten is that there is plenty 
of water in her room. No one has suggested that she had 
not any water in her room." Indeed, according to the 
evidence, there were two jugs on the washstand with water 
in them, a water-bottle, a soda-syphon, and also brandy. 
Besides, as to the fly-papers, who were the people who 
would have seen them if they were there? There was 
Ernie Grant, Dr Sworn, Chater the servant; and none of 
them had. Against this improbable story was to be set the 
version of the prosecution. If the arsenical fly-papers were 
introduced into the house at the end of August, then it was 
much easier to understand why Miss Barrow was taken ill 
at the beginning of September. For, of course, Seddon 
would know that the fly-papers were poisonous, and it would 
be the easiest thing in the world for him to administer it 
with Valentine's meat-juice or brandy. This done, he knew 
on the night of death that the end was near, and, therefore, 
he waited up because he could not leave his wife alone to 
see it; perhaps, indeed, she would not stay alone to see it. 
Rufus Isaacs then passed on to the question of subsequent 
conduct, and here again, he contended, the evidence was 
convincing. He had called in a doctor, it was true 5 but if 
he had not, there would have to have been an inquest, which 
would have been a much more serious thing for him. As 
for Marshall HalPs suggestion that if Seddon really had 
committed murder he would certainly have had the body 
cremated, " that is the kind of argument you hear in every 
criminal case that ever comes before a Court. If every 
criminal knew, when he was committing the crime, of all the 



THE SEDDONS' TRIAL 291 

various steps that he might take in order to prevent the 
detection of the crime ... no doubt there would be a great 
many more undetected crimes than at present." His refusal 
to give information to the only relatives, of whom he had 
knowledge, the Vonderahes, was clearly suspicious. He 
said that he had written a letter to them, informing them 
of Miss Barrow's death and of her will, but they had not 
received the letter nor had anybody seen it, although he 
was ready armed with a carbon copy of it to substantiate his 
allegation. Yet, when the Vonderahes called in person, he 
flatly refused to give them information, which was clear 
evidence that he did not want the truth to be known. And 
so, hour after hour, cold, logical, precise, the Attorney- 
General's speech, unadorned by eloquence and undegraded 
by passion, swept on to its majestic conclusion: " All I ask 
you is, when you have made up your minds, not to shrink 
from the conclusions to which you think you are forced by 
the evidence that has been given. If you are satisfied, say 
so, whatever the consequences. If you are not satisfied, do 
not hesitate to acquit either the one or both. Give effect to 
the results of your deliberations and the conclusions you 
come to, and, if you have done that, you will have done 
your duty, and justice, I am satisfied, will have been done." 
Rufus Isaacs' speech finished on the tenth day of the trial, 
and Mr Justice Bucknill started his summing up. If Rufus 
Isaacs' cross-examination and speech had made Seddon's 
conviction probable, the summing up made it virtually cer 
tain. Unfortunately the summing up was the summing up 
of an old judge, exhausted and upset by the lengthy trial. 
One cannot help feeling sorry for Mr Justice Bucknill, whose 
feelings about the trial were expressed in his own remark 
to the jury: " I am sure there must be men in your body 
who would have given anything not to have been in this case. 
I can only tell you, as far as I am concerned, I have the 
same feelings." But nevertheless it was unfortunate that 
the jury in so complicated a case did not receive a more 
adequate direction. In point of fact, Mr Justice BucknilPs 
summing up lasted only two hours and " left an impression 



292 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

as strongly against Seddon as it did in favour of his wife." 
Indeed he virtually directed an acquittal of Mrs Seddon, 
when he said to the jury: " You have seen this woman. 
Do you think she is lying? Well, if she was lying she was 
lying very cleverly. If you think she was telling the truth 
with regard to what took place on the night of the I3th to 
the 1 4th, and with regard to the last illness, I should not be 
astonished if you found her not guilty." Towards Seddon, 
however, his attitude was very different, and unfortunately 
he twice made use of the expression " do not be prejudiced 
too much," once in reference to his not sending for the doctor 
on the night of Miss Barrow's final agony, and secondly, 
in reference to his funeral arrangements. Now there should 
be no suggestion of the jury being prejudiced at all in legal 
proceedings j no doubt there are occasions when this is a 
legal fiction, but at any rate it should be maintained from 
the Bench. It is clearly unfortunate that the jury should 
get the idea, sanctioned from the highest quarter, that pre 
judice on their part is inevitable or even possible. 

The jury retired at 3.58 on the afternoon of Thursday, 
March 14th, and were absent an hour. When they filed 
back into Court, the stream of chatter was frozen into 
anxious silence. Everybody looked at the foreman's face 
to try and read his secret of life and death. The Deputy- 
Clerk of the Court addressed him. 

"Do you find Frederick Henry Seddon guilty or not 
guilty of wilful murder? " 

" Guilty," came the reply. 

Every gaze turned to Seddon, but he moved not a muscle; 
he remained aloof, unconcerned. But the Deputy-Clerk 
was again addressing the foreman, and, as if fascinated, the 
eyes swung back again. 

" Do you find Margaret Ann Seddon guilty or not guilty 
of wilful murder? " 

" Not guilty," came the reply. 

At once Seddon turned to his wife in the dock, and kissed 
her. As the Court watched this last salute, it was as if 
they were spectators of some ghastly tableau between life 



THE SEDDONS' TRIAL 293 

and death. The awed silence was broken by a moan from 
Mrs Seddon. 

" Tell her she is discharged," said the Judge. And 
Mrs Seddon, sobbing uncontroLledly, was half led, half 
lifted out of the dock by the wardresses. She resisted, as 
much as her feeble strength would allow, flinging her arms 
out towards her husband and giving a terrible cry. But 
Seddon had paid his tribute to emotion, and was once more 
the practical man of affairs 3 he waved her back and though 
hearing her cries, which growing ever fainter, still harrowed 
every other person in the Court, he paid no heed. For he 
was anxious to make his statement. 

His statement made in a firm voice, was clear, concise 
and well-reasoned, a remarkable performance for a man 
who had just been found guilty of murder. It ended with 
the words " anything more I might have to say I do not 
suppose will be of any account, but still, if it is the last 
words I speak, I am not guilty of the crime for which I 
stand committed." The Judge then assumed the black cap, 
but his voice trembled as he addressed Seddon; and his 
distress had been increased by Seddon's Masonic oath, " I 
declare by the Great Architect of the Universe that I am 
not guilty, my Lord," for Mr Justice Bucknill was a leading 
Freemason. He nerved himself to his task, however, and 
said, in faltering tones: " This murder has been described 
by yourself in the box as one which, if made out against you, 
was a barbarous one a murder of design, a cruel murder. 
It is not for me to harrow your feelings." 

" It does not affect me," said Seddon in a steady voice. 
" I have a clear conscience." 

" Try to make peace with your Maker," urged the Judge. 

" I am at peace," came the reply. 

As the Judge proceeded to sentence, ending with the 
exhortation " and may the Lord have mercy on your soul," 
he was seen to be in tears. But Seddon merely watched him 
with slightly raised eyebrows and an expression of super 
cilious astonishment. As the Judge wiped his eyes he gave 
a final faint shrug of his shoulders, and made for the stairs 



294 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

to leave the dock, undirected and unassisted. One cannot 
withhold admiration from the hard man, whose indifference 
to the misfortunes of others is equalled by an imperviousness 
to his own. 

Seddon's advisers took the case to the Court of Criminal 
Appeal, where it was heard by Mr Justice Darling, Mr 
Justice Channel, and Mr Justice Coleridge on the first two 
days of April. Marshall Hall, who never liked appearing 
in a Court of Appeal, argued skilfully and vehemently, 
but the Court dismissed the appeal without even calling upon 
the Attorney-General. So Seddon had to die. 

Was the awful crime, of which he was accused and for 
which he had to^pay so heavy a penalty, brought home to him 
beyond the possibility of reasonable doubt? He had had a fair 
trial, and had been found guilty by a representative jury of 
his countrymen 5 but such verdicts have been wrong before 
now. At the time there was a strong enough feeling that his 
guilt had not been established, for three hundred thousand 
people and it must be remembered that Seddon was not 
an attractive or sympathetic character to sign the petition 
for his reprieve. He was condemned on a combination of 
scientific and circumstantial evidence, which did not greatly 
commend itself to the plain man. It is true that the prose 
cution had forged so long a chain of suspicious circumstances 
that it is almost impossible that it could be linked together 
by anything but the supposition of murder. But it is just 
possible that alternative explanations were the correct ones. 
It is just possible, for instance, that the fly-papers had been 
in ^the room, although nobody had noticed them, and that 
Miss Barrow, in her agony, had drunk the solution from the 
soup-plate 5 it is just possible that Miss Barrow had previ 
ously disposed of the gold and that Ernie Grant was wrong 
in his recollection of seeing her count it in August, 1911$ 
it is just possible that Seddon's letter to the Vonderahes was 
lost in the post, and that his taciturnity to them derived 
from a dislike of them rather than from a desire to conceal 
the facts. It is just possible, in short, that Seddon, though 
grasping and avaricious, was not a murderer. It was not 



THE SEDDONS 5 TRIAL 295 

likely 5 but the possibility, combined with such things as 
the unsatisfactory circumstances connected with Thorley's 
identification of Maggie Seddon, makes us appreciate Mr 
Filson Young's comment that " the moment was excruciating 
for any one who, if not assured of Seddon's innocence, was 
certainly not assured that his guilt had been satisfactorily 
proved, and there was more than one such person in the 
Court." 

It was suggested at the time that the prosecution, whose 
attitude in a capital case should be almost judicial, pressed 
too hard upon the prisoner, and the Attorney-General's 
speech has been described as a " hanging speech." It is, 
of course, true that this was Rufus Isaacs' first, and only, 
murder case, and that he was not familiar with the atmos 
phere of murder trials. It is also true that his cold, im 
personal attitude was not likely to inspire the jury with 
much sympathy for the prisoner 5 but then this is perhaps 
scarcely part of the duty of prosecuting counsel. If the 
prosecution do press unduly hard, it is the duty of the Judge 
to restore the balance ; unfortunately, in this case, as we have 
seen, the summing up was not very satisfactory. In point 
of fact, Mr Justice Bucknill said that " the Attorney-General 
has conducted this case with remarkable fairness," and 
Marshall Hall paid high tribute to it. " The nature of the 
prosecution," he said, " is always more deadly when it is 
conducted with the fairness with which this case has been 
conducted by the learned Attorney-General, and I hope it 
will be a model to those who practise in these Courts of the 
way in which prosecutions should be conducted by the 
Crown." 

As for Mrs Seddon, that weak, well-meaning, baffled 
creature, her troubles did not end with her acquittal. She 
tried to collect funds in Hyde Park to help her husband's 
petition, but a hostile demonstration forced her to retire. 
Her neighbours, with a singular contempt for the finding of 
the Court, insisted that she was a murderess, and, in order 
to silence this unfriendly gossip, she signed a " confession " 
which appeared in the Weekly Dispatch, to the effect that 



296 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

she had seen her husband give poison to Miss Barrow and 
had been terrorised by him into silence. Under the influence 
of John Bully however, Mrs Seddon retracted her " con 
fession " and said it was untrue. Having got affairs into this 
muddle she conceived a happy and feminine solution of her 
difficulties by marrying again and going abroad. I trust 
that in a new world she found happiness in her new life. 

The petition for Seddon's reprieve failed, and his exe 
cution was fixed for April i8th. He was bitterly disap 
pointed at the failure of his final hope, but he remained 
stoical to the end, maintaining his innocence at the last. 
But public interest, which had followed closely the trial of 
this strange, striking personality, so narrow in his strength, 
so unattractive in his ability, was diverted from his death. 
For the shadow of the gallows, which overtook him, was 
lost in the greater shadow of unexampled catastrophe. 



CHAPTER XXII 

THE TITANIC DISASTER 

IT is in a way curious that the Titanic disaster, separated 
as it is from us by the long agony of the War, should 
abide so vividly in the memory. It might have been 
thought that senses, blunted by the long accumulation of 
accustomed horror, would have reacted but dully to the 
memory of an earlier and less lasting calvary. But it has 
not been 505 rather it has proved that people, looking back 
for some harbinger of the great disaster which was to engulf 
their lives, found it in the wreck of the Titanic. They did 
not find it in the Irish troubles, for they were too 
" political "5 but the seas which engulfed the Titanic swept 
away ordinary people in the quiet pursuance of their avoca 
tions. There, but for the grace of God, went lords and 
ladies, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, just 
and unjust, sinners and saints 5 it was potent because it might 
have happened to anybody. People at that time or, at 
least, certain classes of them were living in a state of un 
paralleled security j it may be that they were confounding 
comfort with civilisation, and it may be that it was a dull 
and soulless security. But, whatever it was, people, ignorant 
or careless of the signs that high politics provided, felt that 
it would last for ever. They were wrong, and their first 
suspicion that they were wrong came with the Titanic 
disaster; irrationally, perhaps, but intuitively and irresistibly, 
they felt in it a shock that undermined the basis of the 
cushioned security in which they lived $ as it turned out, it 
was to be swept away for ever. For, as the crash of the 
Titanic echoed and re-echoed, it was as if, in spirit, one 
heard the first rumblings of the prelude to Armageddon. 

The Titanic disaster, great in its magnitude, was jnfinitely 
greater in surprise. For the Titanic, built in homage to the 

297 



298 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

pre-War twin ideals of comfort and security was itself the 
best embodiment of those ideas. There had lately been a 
competition for the speed record of the North Atlantic 
route; it had passed from the White Star Teutonic to the 
Cunard's Campania, from the Campania to the Hamburg- 
Amerika Deutschland and thence back again to the Maure- 
tania and the Lusitania. But such competition was indulged 
in only at a price, for a speed of twenty-seven knots costs 
roug;hly five times as much as a speed of twenty-one knots; 
nor is the price paid only in money, for great speed entails 
a vibration which is detrimental to comfort. Besides, what 
is speed after all? -It may be essential to the arriviste, but 
there are things more important to a generation which has 
arrived. The White Star line, therefore, decided to build 
a ship designed, not to compete in speed, but to surpass in 
safety and luxury ; the Titanic would carry business men like 
gentlemen. And indeed her size and appointments were 
such as to impress even the most hard-headed captains of 
commerce. The Titanic was a ship of 45,000 tons, half as 
big again as the 30,000 ton Cunarders. She had watertight 
doors which could be closed in half-a-minute from the 
bridge ; automatic fire-alarms 5 the most powerful wireless 
installations afloat; double bottoms; fifteen watertight com 
partments, of which any two could be smashed without 
endangering the safety of the ship. She carried fourteen 
ordinary lifeboats, four collapsibles, and two emergency sea- 
boats, a provision more than half as great again as that 
required by the Board of Trade regulations (but it may here 
be remarked that the Board of Trade, with that complacency 
which is so pleasing a feature of our Government depart 
ments, had framed its regulations to apply to ships of ten 
thousand tons, and had not since seen fit to revise them). 

But if the Titanic y s structure, engines and safeguards were 
an object of wondering remark to those who could appreciate 
such things, her appointments and fittings were a source of 
delight to the most uninitiate. There were gymnasiums for 
the athletic, lounges for the lazy, shops for the trivially 
acquisitive and dining-rooms for all; and all was done on a 



THE TITANIC DISASTER 299 

lavish scale, which took by storm the imagination of a 
generation, as yet untrained by Hollywood and Messrs. 
Lyons to the customary inspection of rococo magnificence. 
She carried, too, on her maiden voyage a cargo of great 
names to people her apartments. There was Bruce Ismay, 
managing-director of the White Star Line 5 there was finance 
in the person of Benjamin Guggenheim, and rich philan 
thropy in Isidor Straus 5 there was Major Butt, A.D.C. and 
adviser of the President of the United States, and W. T. 
Stead, famous Radical journalist ; there was Charles Hayes, 
President of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, and 
Colonel Astor, one of New York's social luminaries, Sir 
Cosmo Duff-Gordon and his wife and many more. In all 
there^ were ^322 first-class passengers and 277 second-class. 
And in addition to these, the Titanic carried 709 third-class 
passengers, many of whom were emigrants, bearing with 
them the stock of their small possessions. Not for them the 
luxurious appointments of the first-class deck; but they 
carried aboard with them the frail and priceless cargo of 
hope.^ And so it was in high spirit and brave array that the 
Titanic moved slowly from Southampton harbour at noon 
on Wednesday, the loth of April, 1912. 

For four days the Titanic steamed smoothly and steadily 
across the ocean. All went according to programme and a 
keener edge was given to the passengers' enjoyment by the 
knowledge that they were assisting at so auspicious a maiden 
voyage. On the Sunday warnings were received from the 
Baltic, Tourame y Caronia and other ships that ice was 
prevalent. But this was neither unusual nor unduly alarm 
ing, for at this time of the year, when a rather more 
southerly course ^as taken on account of the danger of ice 
(since the loss of the Titanic it has been pushed farther 
south), ice was to be expected; no large ship, however, had 
ever been lost by collision with ice, though slight fractures 
had been sustained, and no captain ever thought it necessary 
to slow down in clear weather on account of reports of ice. 
And the Titanic was no ordinary ship. Had it not bulkheads 
and watertight compartments? And was it not in the trusty 



300 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

charge of Captain Smith, the doyen of the White Star Line? 
No, the Titanic was no ordinary ship} she was, in the 
expressed opinion of one of the passengers, as " unsinkable 
as a railway station." Little things like ice were of no 
concern to the passengers j they were matters for the crew. 
The passengers had few cares and no fears. Eating, drink 
ing, talking, playing, dancing 5 the time passed merrily in an 
atmosphere of gay good fellowship. It was almost as if 
they had said, " Let us eat, drink and be merry, for to 
morrow we die." But no one had any thoughts of death; 
that was a thing out of place and far away from the Titanic 
as it glided on its smooth progress through the calm Atlantic 
waters. Here was life and laughter and love and human 
pleasure, untroubled and unthinking. And above, the in 
scrutable destiny of Providence brooded over the serene 
vulgarity of man. 

Darkness fell on that Sunday evening in April with the 
Titanic still maintaining its pace of 21^ knots, and headed 
for the ice zone. Orders had been given to the officers of 
the watch and to the look-out men in the crow's nest to keep 
a sharp look-out for ice; but the conditions were such as 
must have seemed ideal to the amateur. There was no 
wind, no swell, no moon, a state of unbroken calm. This 
was, however, " an extraordinary combination of circum 
stances which you would not meet again in a hundred years," 
and it meant that the detection of icebergs would be 
extremely difficult, as there would be no breaking of the 
surf to reveal their presence. One of the two look-out men 
afterwards said that he discerned a slight haze ahead about 
half-an-hour before the collision; but, as this apparition was 
totally unsubstantiated, it is probable that it was invented to 
offset any suggestion of negligence on his part, and it seems 
certain that the night was perfectly clear. At any rate the 
thought of disaster was absent from every mind Captain 
Smith had in fact retired to bed when one of the look-out 
men, shortly after 11.30, telephoned to the bridge to say 
that he had sighted an obstruction straight ahead. Mr 
Murdoch, the first officer, was on watch, and acted with great 



THE TITANIC DISASTER 301 

promptitude; he had the helm starboarded so as to swing 
the bow of the ship to port, put the engines full speed astern, 
and closed the watertight doors. But events moved too 
quickly for him, and just over a minute after the warning 
had been given the Titanic struck the iceberg a glancing 
blow. There was a slight, a very slight, concussion; and 
that was all that was felt. But, straight and swift as forked 
lightning, the blow ripped open the hull and the thin, deadly 
gash tore through 250 feet of the Titanic 3 * side. 

The slight shock that was felt caused very little anxiety. 
Many were now asleep, and of these few were awakened; 
those who were playing cards paused, and went on with the 
game; some c-ame up on deck, saw that all was as usual, and 
retired again; the look-out men remarked that it had been 
a narrow shave; and the junior wireless-operator, coming on 
duty at midnight, was aware of nothing but the stopping 
of the ship. This indeed was the one thing that puzzled 
people; why should the ship stop in mid-ocean? But there 
was no noticeable list on her, and no signs of damage and 
distress; it was not thus that accidents happened at sea. 
Besides the Titanic was unsinkable, and the night was cold; 
so, quickly and happily confident, they retired again. But 
they were wrong; the gash had opened five of the fifteen 
watertight compartments, and the ship was doomed. So 
much at any rate was clear to Mr Andrewes, a representative 
of the firm which had built the Titanic > who examined her 
immediately after the accident. He saw that the five pierced 
compartments must gradually but inevitably fill, and that in 
so doing they would bring the tops of the bulkheads, which 
protected the remaining two-thirds of the ship, below the 
level of the sea and consequently of the water in the flooded 
compartments; thus, even if the bulkheads held, the water 
would come in over the tops of them, and it would be only 
a question of time before the rest of the ship was swamped. 

Discussion was hastily held on the bridge, which was 
joined by Mr Ismay, as to what was to be done, and it was 
decided to gets the boats out at once and to try and get into 
touch with other ships by wireless. The first part of the 



302 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

policy was not, however, as easy to put into effect as it sounds. 
The view often held of the Titanic disaster, that there was 
an instant scramble for the boats, is very wide of the mark 5 
in point of fact, the difficulty at first was not to restrain 
people from the boats, but to induce them to enter them. 
For people were asked to abandon the apparent security of 
the ship, which was standing upright in calm water, for a 
perilous descent, seventy feet sheer down the side of the 
cliff into the icy water. Even on the deck it was by now 
bitterly cold, and many people, especially third-class 
passengers to whom, in the case of the emigrants at any 
rate > descent in the boats would mean the abandonment of all 
their possessions came up on deck, found how cold it was 
and how steady the ship was, and promptly retired again. 
In addition to this, the stewards, in accordance with the usual 
practice adopted in order to avoid the risk of panic, insisted 
that it was a merely precautionary measure. One cannot 
help challenging the wisdom of such a policy 5 it would seem 
better to trust people's responsible instincts and tell them 
the true state of affairs, than to treat them as children and 
minimise the gravity of the situation. Be that as it may, the 
policy was justified in that the loading and lowering of the 
boats was attended by very little panic j but, on the other 
hand, most of the boats were lowered containing consider 
ably less than their full complement of passengers. This 
was due partly to the combination of the above circumstances, 
and partly to the fear of some of the officers that the boats, 
in being lowered, would not be able to stand the weight of 
a full complement j in point of fact, the fear seems to have 
been without foundation, for one of the boats was success 
fully lowered with a cargo of seventy persons. The loading 
and lowering of the boats went forward without panic, and 
even gracefully and gallantly j for the gentlemen doffed hats 
and handed the ladies into the boats, just as if they were 
handing them into their carriages after a reception. It was 
not till the last boats were being lowered that an attempt to 
rush them was made by some steerage passengers, who were 
promptly and vigorously beaten back. That was all the 



THE TITANIC DISASTER 303 

panic there was, and when the last boats put out, seven 
hundred people had been carried from the ship. The 
capacity of the boats was 1178, and there were 2206 people 
on board. 

The passengers who were taken off in the boats were 
singularly fortunate, for not a single boat came to grief in 
the perilous descent, and of the seven hundred people all 
survived their exposure, except one solitary man, who 
perished of cold. This happy result was due to the courage 
and resolution of Captain Rostrom of the Carpathia and his 
erew. The Carpathia was a Cunarder of 13,000 tons, which 
was at the time travelling from west to east that is, in the 
opposite direction to the Titanic. It so happened that, when 
she was at a distance of 58 miles from the Titanic , her wire 
less operator returned to his instrument for the purpose of 
informing the Titanic that a batch of messages for her 
passengers were waiting to be sent from Cape Race. Instead, 
however, of executing this simple task, he himself received 
the message, dramatic in its awesome simplicity: " We have 
struck a berg and are sinking." He lost no time in telling 
Captain Rostrom, who was himself in bed at the time, and 
Captain Rostrom in his turn acted with admirable decision. 
The nominal maximum speed of the Carpathia was fourteen 
knots ; but this was a matter of life and death, and Captain 
Rostrom ordered a speed of seventeen and a half knots. 
And so, with her captain and all his officers on the look-out, 
and her boats swung out in readiness for instant lowering, 
the Car-pathia sped through the ice-ridden waters to the 
rescue. There was another ship, too, the Calif ornian, which 
saw the lights of a ship and saw rockets go up , but, unfor 
tunately, her captain did not consider that the situation 
called for action, and the Calif ornian did not go to the 
rescue. She was much nearer to the Titanic than was the 
Car$athia y and what the result of her action might have been 
to the people on the Titanic we shall presently see. 

Meanwhile on the Titanic the atmosphere was changing 
and intensifying. The ship was sinking ; the boats were 
gone; they were cut off. That was the stark reality, and 



304 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

they were left to ponder it. Brave men, human men, 
doomed to slow destruction, and denied the last privilege of 
effort on their own behalf. Do what they would, they could 
do nothing to save themselves or each other; they were left 
to the contemplation of a cruel and inescapable fate, which 
rose up before them with the insistence of a nightmare. In 
those dreadful circumstances, which none who has not par 
taken in may presume to judge, anything might have been 
expected and forgiven. Some panic there was undoubtedly; 
but there was, too, calmness, consideration, humour, and 
great courage. The crew went about their tasks, undeterred 
by the certainty of annihilation; the stokers kept at work, 
waist-high in water until nearly two o'clock to keep the lights 
and pumps going ; stewards ransacked the flooded cabins, 
looking for passengers or their abandoned babies; the post- 
office clerks dragged up the sacks of mail from the depths of 
the ship ; the band gallantly continued playing dance-music, 
until the deeper strains of " Nearer, my God, to Thee " 
carried to all the message that the end was at hand at last. 
But they may perhaps be envied these opportunities, which 
evoked their heroism ; they at least could put these practical 
tasks between them and their thoughts of death. But, for 
the passengers, there was so little that they could do; 
nothing, save to wait. There were those who resolved to 
die as they had lived; and the music of laughter, harsh but 
brave, mingled with the rattle of dice and the shuffle of 
cards. There were those who resolved to die more inten 
sively than they had lived; and there came the clamour of 
rich orgies, which prudence had forbidden in life. There 
were those who resolved to make peace with their Maker 
while they were yet in the way with Him; and the air was 
shot with their piteous cries and self-abasement. There 
were those who resolved to help each other; and old men 
philosophised in large chairs, and young lovers murmured 
tenderly in corners. It was a supreme moment of revelation, 
when human emotions and human instincts rose, straight as 
a rocket, from the bounds of their restraints ; in that moment 
the people on the Titanic stood their test. 



THE TITANIC DISASTER 305 

But the end was near. Endeavour had exhausted its 
utility. " Men/ 5 said Captain Smith, " you have done your 
duty, your full duty. You can do no more. It's every man 
for ^ himself now. 33 Every man for himself 5 every man 
against tfie most fearful odds. The end came rapidly at last. 
The ship, steady so long, began to heel over. " Deck after 
deck submerged. There was no lurching or grinding or 
crunching. The Titanic simply settled." The strains of 
hymn and prayer ascended the lonely air, uniting all in one 
last sacrament. And then came the end. " It was all over 
in an instant. The Titanic** stern rose completely out of the 
water and went up thirty, forty, sixty feet in the air. Then 
with her body slanting at an angle of forty-five degrees, 
slowly the Titanic slipped out of sight." Many died as she 
went down. Mrs Isidore Straus, who had refused to be 
parted from her husband in order to enter a boat, saying, 
"I'll stay where you are. We've lived for forty years 
together, and will not part now in old age," died in her 
husband's arms. Others threw themselves into the icy water, 
in which there was no survival. Nor could they enter the 
boats, for these last boats were full, and further cargo would 
mean destruction. " Then there fell on our ears," said Mr 
Beesley, one^of the survivors who was in a boat, " the most 
appalling noise that human being ever heard the cries of 
hundreds of our fellow-beings, struggling in the icy waters, 
crying for help with a cry that we knew could not be 
answered." The cries soon died away, for soon there were 
none to utter them. 

And Dawn broke on that Monday morning, hard and 
clear over the wreckage of human lives, and saluted the 
unexampled fortitude of Man. 

Slowly and inaccurately the news of disaster trickled 
through. Something had happened to the Titanic; it had 
been damaged, though not sunk; her passengers had been 
safely taken off by other ships ; there was no loss of life. 
But gradually reports came in from the various ships on the 
ocean, denying with disheartening unanimity that they had 
any of the Titanic? s passengers on board 5 and then, while 



306 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

the Carpathia was still struggling back through adverse 
weather to New York, a realisation- of what had happened 
began to dawn. The incredible had happened; the unsink- 
able Titanic had gone down on her maiden voyage, with 
enormous loss of life. The news sent a thrill of horror 
through two continents, as yet unused to horror ; and horror 
was quickly reinforced by anger. There were those who 
thought that the disaster was a visitation from God j but they 
were in a minority. To most one thing only was clear. 
They had been told that the Titanic was unsinkable and she 
had sunk; someone had blundered. There must be justice, 
vengeance, sacrifice to placate the gods. And there arose the 
deep, full-throated bay for blood. 

The search for potential victims did not have to extend 
very far, for they were marked out by the course of events. 
Mr Bruce Ismay had survived; then he must have conspired 
to sink the ship, and then used his authority to secure his 
own escape at the cost of the death of others. Sir Cosmo 
and Lady Duff-Gordon had been rowed away in a boat, 
which had not its full complement on board; they had 
clearly bribed the crew to abandon others to their fate so as 
not to encumber the boat. Captain Smith was among the 
dead; that meant that he had committed suicide to escape 
the consequences of his criminal negligence. Such, and many 
more, were the stories which were actively circulated on both 
sides of the Atlantic during those anxious days. Queues 
formed in Southampton in the hope of news of absent loved 
ones; and the White Star offices in New York had to be 
afforded police protection. The American Government 
acted with prompt, if misdirected, vigour; before the 
Carfathia had reached New York, they had set up a Sena 
torial Commission of Inquiry. Consequently, when the 
Carpathia at last drew into New York on the evening of 
April 1 8th, bearing her tragic cargo, all of whom had been 
subjected to terrible shock and exposure in the boats, and 
many of whom had lost their husbands or families on the 
ship, she was at once besieged by eager senators with sub 
poenas and the whole paraphernalia of the law. The 



THE TITANIC DISASTER 307 

Senatorial Inquiry, it may be stated at once, had no claims 
to be taken seriously. It had no assessors, no experts, no 
officers of the United States Navy 5 its moving spirit was one 
Senator Smith, a busybody politician, who was so laughably 
ignorant of naval matters that he solemnly asked the 
Titanic's second-officer whether, when the crash took place, 
steps were taken to get the passengers into the watertight 
compartments. It was fittingly described by the American 
Merchant Marine Association as a " farcical inquiry," and 
aroused much criticism both in the American newspapers and 
among individual citizens. In point of fact, the Commission 
had no real jurisdiction, as the Tit ante y having flown the 
British flag and having been lost on the High Seas, was 
answerable only to the British Courts. But so long as the 
Commission kept the witnesses detained in Washington, the 
Board of Trade Inquiry, which was to be convened in 
London, had to be delayed. 

But there was undoubtedly urgent need for an authori 
tative inquiry in England, for there were many points at 
issue. It was decided, therefore, to allow representation of 
interested parties, though naturally an effort was made to 
keep this within reasonable limit. Sir Rufus Isaacs, as 
Attorney-General, appeared for the Board of Trade, and 
with him were the Solicitor-General, Sir John Simon, Mr 
Butler Aspinall, K.C., the famous Admiralty lawyer, Mr 
S. A. T. Rowlatt, and Mr Raymond Asquith, the then 
Prime Minister's eldest son. Sir Robert Finlay led for the 
White Star, and Mr Hamar Greenwood, M.P., (later Lord 
Greenwood) for the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Duff- 
Gordons were represented by Mr Henry Duke and Mr 
Vaughan Williams, and Mr Clement Edwards, M.P., ap 
peared for the Dockers' Union. The Inquiry was presided 
over by Lord Mersey, who had lately resigned from the 
Presidency of the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division 
and who had years before been Judge in the Whittaker 
Wright case. The scope of the Inquiry was wide. In 
essence, its purpose was to find out the cause of the disaster 
and to discover the best and most practical precautions to 



308 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

guard against its recurrence. The first of these objects 
involved, inevitably if not explicitly, the question of the 
supply of life-boats j of Captain Smith's negligence , of Mr 
Bruce Ismay's actions 5 of the conduct of the Duff-Gordons, 
whether the Californian had done its full duty, after 
sighting the rockets and distress signals 5 and the vexed 
question of whether the third-class passengers had been 
sacrificed to their economic superiors (for the Labour press 
and politicians had discovered in the disparity between the 
percentages of third-class and higher-class passengers saved 
another instance of unfair class-distinction), and many more. 
The issues, therefore, were complex and varied 5 nor was the 
position of the Board of Trade itself above criticism. The 
Titanic had conformed, had more than conformed, to the 
requirements of the Board of Trade regulations, and the 
Titanic had met with swift and overwhelming disaster; was 
it then the Board of Trade regulations which were at fault? 
In this connection, the details of the Titanic** lifeboat equip 
ment are of interest 5 there were fourteen large boats, capable 
of carrying sixty-five persons each, two emergency boats 
capable of carrying forty each, and four collapsible boats 
with a capacity of forty-seven. Thus the boats were capable 
of taking 1178 persons on board, and the fact that only 711 
were saved might be attributed to mismanagement on board 
the Titanic. But since there were 2201 people on board, the 
lifeboats could clearly not, in any event, have carried them 
all away 5 and in this respect the Board of Trade regulations 
could be attacked for not insisting on an adequate number 
of boats. (It may here perhaps be mentioned that 62 per 
cent, of the first-class passengers, 41 per cent, of the second- 
class, 25 per cent, of the third, and 24 per cent, of the crew 
were saved 5 19 per cent, of the men on board were saved, 
77 per cent, of the women, and 49 per cent of the children.) 
Rufus Isaacs, therefore, had to thread his way through a 
labyrinth of issues j but it was the sort of case eminently 
suited to his talents. His detachment, his incisiveness, his 
admirably ordered mind all united to give him a clear view 
of the questions and of the conduct of the Inquiry. His 



THE TITANIC DISASTER 309 

task was really dual: he was professionally appearing for 
the Board of Trade, but also, as a member of the Govern 
ment and leader of the legal profession, he was peculiarly 
concerned to get at the facts of the situation and to assist 
the formation of a Report, whose recommendations would 
be a real safeguard against the likelihood of a repetition of 
the disaster. He opened the Inquiry, whose first sessions 
were _ held in the Drill Hall of the London Scottish at 
Buckingham Gate, with a long speech, stressing the Govern 
ment's desire for a full enquiry and its willingness to adopt 
any suggestions of the Court. He then sketched the ques 
tions for the Court under twenty-six heads, of which the 
first five were concerned with the details of the Titanic** 
equipment and its adequacy, numbers six to twelve with the 
precautions against ice, and the remainder with the facts 
connected with the collision and the recommendations of the 
Court. The Inquiry lasted in all for over thirty sessions, 
and, in view of the great difficulty in arriving at the true 
facts, the multiplicity of interests demanding representation 
and the amount of prejudice existing in the public mind, it 
may be considered as a tribute to those conducting the 
Inquiry that it lasted no longer and strayed no more widely 
than it did. Much of the evidence, however, would necess 
arily be very dreary in repetition, consisting as it did in 
piecemeal contributions to the account of the disaster, which 
are invaluable in enabling us to reconstruct the circumstances, 
but of little value or interest in themselves. 

There were, however, specific questions to which it was 
right to get an answer, and which public opinion demanded 
should be answered. Chief among these was the great 
question: was the loss of the Titanic due to exceptional 
circumstances, which could not reasonably have been fore 
seen, or was it the result of human interference or human 
inaction? There was a certain amount of disagreement as 
to the conditions actually existing. Thus Reginald Lee, one 
of the look-out men, said in his evidence on the fourth day 
of the Inquiry, that there was a haze; this, however, was 
denied by the other look-out man, Frederick Fleet, and 



310 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

Lord Mersey declared that he did not believe Lee on this 
point. But, in point of fact, there was no need to invent a 
haze, for the conditions, as we have seen, were certainly 
exceptional. The point really was, therefore, were the 
conditions in themselves sufficient to account for the accident, 
or was it due to a neglect of safety, as some suggested, in 
the pursuit of the speed record for the Titanic 3 * maiden 
voyag*e? Strength was added to this view by the fact that 
one of the ice-warnings, received by the Titanic, had been 
handed by the captain to Mr Bruce Ismay, who had kept it 
until the evening and then given it back without comment, 
this, it was suggested, was an attempt to use his position as 
Managing Director of the Company to influence Captain 
Smith to maintain undiminished the speed of the ship in 
spite of the danger of ice. He was closely cross-examined 
by Rufus Isaacs as to this action, and he maintained in answer 
that he had not thought the note of particular importance, 
nor had he seen any particular reason for slowing down, 
especially as the Titanic was not at the time going at full 
speed. Mr Ismay had not, in fact, the reputation for inter 
fering with the captains of White Star ships in the discharge 
of their functions, and it was inherently improbable that the 
Titanic, which had been built for safety and luxury rather 
than for great speed, should be attempting to defeat the 
records of ships better equipped in that respect that herself. 
Further, if she had slowed down in consequence of the ice, 
she would have been virtually establishing a precedent for 
a ship of her class in those waters, for all the captains of 
ships, who gave evidence at the Inquiry, unanimously stated 
that it was not their practice to slacken their speed on account 
of ice. 

Second to the question of the responsibility for the crash 
was the further point: did the boats carry away as many 
people as was reasonably possible, or were they prevented 
from taking their full complement by human intervention 
and, possibly, even human selfishness? This question 
crystallised into the controversy about the conduct of Sir 
Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon. They had left the ship in 



THE TITANIC DISASTER 311 

emergency lifeboat number one, which with a potential 
capacity of forty people had actually taken only twelve, of 
whom five were passengers and seven members of the crew. 
Sir Cosmo had -given each member of the crew who had been 
in the boat a present of 5, and the allegation was made 
that this was a bribe, given to induce them not to turn back 
and pick up as many people as they could, when the ship 
had gone down. Sir Cosmo's version of the affair was that 
the 5 was given to the men because they had lost all their 
kit in the wreck, and that it was not given to them until 
they were on the Carpathia. The only real backing for the 
allegations against the Duff-Gordons was the evidence of 
Charles Hendrickson, one of the seamen on the lifeboat j 
he asserted that he had wanted to go back, but that Duff- 
Gordon had dissuaded him and he had given way. But even 
he said that the 5 was given on board the Carfathia and 
that nothing was said or done in reference to the matter 
until they were picked up 3 and his evidence on the other 
point was contradicted by another sailor, George Symons, 
who was cross-examined at length by Rufus Isaacs on these 
points. He said, in answer, that he had not been told not 
to go back by the Duff-Gordons, and that he had not 
received his present from Sir Cosmo until a day or two 
before the Car$athia reached New York 5 he also said that 
the Chief Officer, Mr Murdoch, had ordered their lifeboat 
to be lowered as it was, as there was nobody else about at 
the time. Sir Cosmo himself gave evidence, and was cross- 
examined at length by Rufus Isaacs. It must have been 
very distressing to have to cross-examine Mr Ismay and 
Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon, who, in addition to the horrors of 
the actual disaster, had been pursued for weeks by the full 
violence of a prejudiced and uninformed public clamour. 
But in their own interests it was desirable, to enable them 
to vindicate themselves, especially in the case of the Duff- 
Gordons, who were represented by extremely able counsel, 
for if they had not been cross-examined, it would have 
been open to people to say that the facts had not really been 
eone into. What was made abundantly clear by the Inquiry 



312 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

is this: the Duff-Gordons had refused to go in several 
previous boats j the boat, in which they actually went, 
was properly authorised to go (we have already seen that 
there was not the clamorous eagerness to get into the boats, 
which popular imagination believes) j Lady Duff-Gordon 
was sick and helpless practically all the time; the promise 
of the 5 was not made at a time when it could affect the 
action of the men. It seems, therefore, in the highest degree 
improbable that Hendrickson's story about being dissuaded 
from turning back has any truth 5 and to me it certainly seems 
the most natural thing in the world that a man of means, 
hearing that his fellow victims of disaster had suffered in a 
further degree by losing their kit, should make them a 
present to enable them to replace it. 

A third question, whether more of the people on the 
Titanic could have been saved by outside assistance, concerns 
primarily the conduct of the Californian. The Carfathia^ 
which had been 58 miles from the Titanic, had succeeded in 
picking up all the boats 5 the Calif ornicm, which had been 
lying stopped only about a quarter of the distance away, had 
not rescued anybody. Was this the best she could have 
done? In point of fact, many of the people on the Titanic 
saw the lights on the Californian, or what was presumably 
the Californian and the Courts subsequently held that it 
was 5 in any case, the Californian was clearly near enough 
to have come up and rendered assistance, if it had been 
realised that assistance was needed. And there had not been 
wanting signs that assistance was required, for, from the 
Calif ornian, rockets were seen going up and the lights of a 
vessel lying to the South were sighted. Now at the Inquiry 
it was maintained by some of the witnesses from the crew 
of the Californian that the lights they had seen were not 
those of the Titanic, and that they had not realised that the 
rockets were distress signals. But these arguments did not 
impress the Court very strongly, for there was no other 
ship in the vicinity, which could very well have been mis 
taken for the Titanic; besides there was no entry in the log 
book, as would be expected, to record the sight of the rockets. 



THE TITANIC DISASTER 313 

The Calif ornian could not very well be blamed for failing 
to get the wireless distress message since, like the Car^athia, 
she had only one wireless operator and he had retired to 
bed j it will be remembered that the operator on the 
Carpathia had only returned to his instrument by chance. 
But on the other points the witnesses did not do very well 
on cross-examination, and Lord Mersey said to the second- 
officer in the course of his examination: " You do not make 
a very good impression on me at present. Did you know 
they were distress signals? " " No, sir," he replied; he 
then had to admit that in his training he had been taught to 
regard what he had seen that night as distress signals. 

When the Report was issued on July 3Oth, after the 
Court had had thirty-seven sittings and examined ninety- 
seven witnesses, it was severely critical of the action, or 
inaction, of the California^. " The ship seen by the 
Calif ornian was the Titanic" the Report decided: " She 
was within ten miles and had she pushed her way through 
the ice as she might have done without any serious risk, she 
might have saved many if not all of the lives that were lost. 
Masters," it concluded ominously, <c should be reminded 
that it is a misdemeanour not to go to the rescue of vessels 
in distress at sea." This was a decisive estimate and the 
whole Report was clear-cut in its conclusions: " The Court 
having carefully enquired into the circumstances of the 
above-mentioned shipping casualty finds . . . that the loss 
of the said ship was due to collision with an iceberg, brought 
about by the excessive speed at which the ship was being 
navigated." But it- was not the fault of Captain Smith, who 
was specifically exculpated j he might have reduced speed or 
turned South, but he in fact followed what was the usual 
practice. " He made a mistake, a very grievous mistake, 
but one in which, in face of pagt experience negligence could 
not be said to have any part." Similarly there was no truth 
in the allegations against the Duff-Gordons and Mr Ismay, 
although it had been improper for Captain Smith to hand 
the ice-warning from the Baltic to Mr Ismay, and improper 
for Mr Ismay to keep it until 7.15 that evening; but this, 



3H LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

the Court decided, had not in any way influenced Captain 
Smith's behaviour. Captain Smith must have known the 
danger of ice, but it had always been the practice of ships 
to maintain speed when near the ice, and hitherto they had 
done so without disaster. The Court found, too, that the 
third-class passengers had not been unfairly treated as 
regards accommodation in the boats 5 they had, in fact, been 
reluctant to leave the ship. 

As for the Board of Trade, it was blamed for not having 
brought its regulations up to date since 1894, though it was 
decided that no blame attached to the officials for having 
passed the Titanic as fit, which seems fair enough. For 
practical effect the recommendations, as distinct from the 
findings of the Court, were not of startling value. They 
suggested an international conference (it may have sounded 
less inevitable then); and, in fact, as a result of the Titanic 
disaster, the North Atlantic route for that period of the 
year was pushed further South and a special patrol is now 
maintained by the United States Government to inform ships 
of the presence of icebergs, the expense being shared by 
the principal countries using the North Atlantic. But, 
generally speaking, the Titanic disaster was not a good basis 
for the consideration of protective safeguards and reforms, 
for it was in every way exceptional. Thus the Titanic was 
sunk only because it struck the iceberg a slanting blow, which 
ripped open five watertight compartments ; had it struck 
head-on, about a hundred feet of her hull would have been 
smashed in, entailing the death of everybody in the stokers' 
quarters, but the ship would have remained afloat. Thus, 
paradoxically, if no attempt had been made to avoid the 
iceberg, and if the apparent damage had been far greater, 
the resulting disaster would have been infinitely less. Again 
the experience of the Titanic led to a great increase in the 
number of boats carried ; and, undoubtedly, a larger supply 
of boats on the Titanic would have been invaluable, if the 
passengers could have been induced to get into them. But 
it may fairly be doubted how efficacious they would prove 
in the normal accident at sea. For the lifeboats were only 



THE TITANIC DISASTER 315 

lowered successfully from the Titanic because of the excep 
tional circumstance that the collision took place in very calm 
water. In the majority of cases this would not be so, and 
a dual difficulty arises j it is extremely unlikely that all the 
boats lowered over the side of a ship with a heavy list on 
it will successfully reach the water, and it is equally unlikely 
that all of those which do reach the water will survive in a 
rough sea. 

On the whole, however, the Inquiry and the Report were 
a source of credit to the people concerned ; for, though the 
recommendations were not startlingly original, the finding 
on the facts of the disaster was, as far as can be seen, accurate 
in spite of all the difficulties of conflicting accounts, and 
certainly just, in face of much blind prejudice. But the 
ultimate significance of the Titanic disaster lies not in the 
details of its happening so much as in the fact of its having 
happened. For even the least imaginative felt it as a shock 
to a sense of security, which derived from the consciousness 
of material prosperity. And to many the shock came as a 
challenge whether a civilisation, based so largely on wealth 
and size, could be a satisfactory and lasting fabric. But this 
is a consideration which was perhaps outside the scope of the 
Board of Trade Inquiry. 



CHAPTER XXIII 

SUFFRAGETTES AND TRADE UNIONS 

I HE Board of Trade Inquiry did not monopolise the 

I Attorney-General's attention during its protracted 

A session, for he had an extremely capable team of 

counsel with him. He was able, therefore, to lead for the 

Crown in the famous suffragette prosecution, which took 

place in May of this year. 

The suffragette agitation in the years before the War 
attracted perhaps more public attention than any other 
political issue except the Irish } question. The question of 
female suffrage was not " practical politics " in the sense 
that it was espoused by either of the great political parties, 
but it had the compensatory advantage of a powerful and 
determined organisation behind it. This was the Women's 
Social and Political Union, which had been founded by 
ardent spirits in 1903, and had gone from strength to 
strength j it was estimated that in six years it had held a 
hundred thousand meetings in various parts of the country, 
and it had filled the Albert Hall thirteen times. This con- 
centrated constitutional pressure, however, failed to achieve 
any result save to annoy (and this it did in considerable 
measure) 5 so the suffragist movement resorted to forms of 
petty violence, such as window-breaking, by way of intimi 
dation. In this they were encouraged by their leaders, who 
were intelligent, cultured people, to whom violence would 
be naturally distasteful, but to whom it seemed the only 
effective method of impressing the merits of their case. They 
were not, however, successful in convincing the Government 
of the merits of their case, but they did succeed in inspiring 
in their followers a degree of enthusiasm for the methods 
which were advocated; and in consequence the Government 
felt it to be necessary to prosecute Mr and Mrs Pethick- 

316 



SUFFRAGETTES AND TRADE UNIONS -317 

Lawrence and Mrs Pankhurst for conspiracy to incite mem 
bers of the Women's Social and Political Union to commit 
damage. 

The trial was of first importance, and all the defendants 
were people of very considerable ability and standing. Mrs 
Pankhurst was leader of the Suffragette movement, Mrs 
Pethick-Lawrence had a great reputation as a social worker, 
and Mr Pethick-Lawrence, who was a Fellow of Trinity, 
Cambridge, was to become Financial Secretary to the 
Treasury in the Labour Administration. Mr Pethick- 
Lawrence and Mrs Pankhurst elected to conduct their own 
defence, while Mrs Pethick-Lawrence was represented by 
Mr " Tim " Healy. In view of the importance of the case, 
Rufus Isaacs himself came down to prosecute. The trial, 
which was held before Mr Justice Coleridge at the Old 
Bailey, lasted for six days, but the Crown's case, which 
Rufus Isaacs presented clearly but with moderation, was not 
difficult to make outj for there was clear evidence in 
pamphlets and so on that acts of petty violence had been 
advocated, and there was evidence, too, that damage had in 
fact been committed. Nor was the line of defence adopted 
a denial of the facts. Their defence consisted rather in 
" confession and avoidance 3 " that is to say, they attributed 
the blame for whatever violence had been committed to the 
violent and repressive speeches of members of the Govern 
ment, and reinforced their argument by pointing to the 
unrebuked violence of F. E. Smith and the Ulster politicians. 
The whole defence indeed was conducted on somewhat 
political lines and, after witnesses, including Dame Ethel 
Smyth and Miss Eva Moore, had been called for the 
defence, Mr Pethick-Lawrence, Mrs Pankhurst, and Mr 
Healy all made speeches of considerable eloquence, stressing 
the political aspects of the issue. Rufus Isaacs then made a 
moderate and judicial speech, in winding up for the Crown, 
which was frequently interrupted by Mrs Pankhurst. Thus, 
when Rufus Isaacs, with the Titanic in mind, pointed out 
that women had certain compensatory advantages for the 
lack of political rights, for example the doctrine of " women 



3i8 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

and children first," Mrs Pankhurst interjected with perhaps 
more force than point: "What about women on the 
streets? " The question went unanswered, and after 
twenty-five minutes' consideration the jury found all three 
defendants guilty with a recommendation to clemency in 
view of the " undoubtedly pure motives underlying the 
agitation." All three asked to be treated as first-class mis 
demeanants, but Mr Justice Coleridge pointed out that this 
would enable them to carry on, whilst in prison, the 
activities, which they had made no attempt to disown and 
no promise to discontinue. They were, therefore, sentenced 
to nine months' imprisonment in the second division, a 
verdict which was greeted with some hissing in Court and 
cries of " Shame ; " but as the maximum punishment for 
their offences was two years with hard labour, it cannot be 
said that the sentence was unduly harsh. As for Rufus 
Isaacs' conduct of the case, it was suitably restrained and 
moderate, and we may accept the estimate of the Times: 
cc the Attorney-General did not press the case against the 
defendants, far less seek to aggravate their crime." 

On June roth there occurred a change in ministerial 
office. Lord Loreburn, who had been Lord Chancellor 
since the Liberals took office in 1906, resigned on the 
grounds of ill-health, and was succeeded by Lord Haldane, 
the Secretary of State for War; the vacancy at the War 
Office being filled by Colonel Seely. Two days later 
institutional history was made, and for the first time the 
Attorney-General received a seat in the Cabinet. To be the 
first Attorney-General to sit in the Cabinet was, of course, 
a great honour for Rufus Isaacs, and, after referring to the 
" unprecedented step," the Times remarked that the Gov 
ernment did not intend it to be regarded by the Bar as a 
precedent, " and that it is a personal distinction conferred 
on Sir Rufus Isaacs for his special services. But it is not 
difficult/' the article continued, " to discover another 
possible factor. The Attorney-General might naturally be 
considered to have the first claim to the Lord Chancellorship 
when it fell vacant, yet, for obvious reasons, Lord Haldane 



SUFFRAGETTES AND TRADE UNIONS 319 

has succeeded in this office. The distinction now conferred 
on Sir Rufus Isaacs might, therefore, be regarded in the 
nature of a solatium." Be that as it may, he was now in 
the Cabinet and brought into a closer contact with the great 
problems of the day. As it happened, his tenure of Cabinet 
rank was not to be a long one, and he had been translated 
from the political sphere before the Irish question reached 
its long and frantic crisis and before the Liberal Cabinet 
was faced with its great decision in August 1914. But 
great issues there undoubtedly were. The constitutional 
question was temporarily settled 5 but Home Rule remained, 
and was joined by Welsh Disestablishment. These questions, 
however, national and to some extent religious, were for the 
orators and the firebrands 5 Rufus Isaacs was more intimately 
concerned with the Trade Union Bill, of which he was in 
charge. For had not the Times spoken of his " invaluable 
help in many directions and not least in regard to the labour 
troubles! " 

The Trade Union Bill, the second reading of which Rufus 
Isaacs introduced on August 6th, was virtually the same as 
a measure which he had introduced in the previous year 
and which had not then been proceeded with. The Bill 
was prompted primarily by dissatisfaction, especially among 
Labour members, with the decision in the Osborne case, 
which held that forced levies, imposed by Trade Unions 
on their members for political purposes, were ultra vires and 
void. The point brings us back to the perennially vexed 
question of the rights of the individual against the rights 
of a society. But the Labour Party which was, of course, 
in very close alliance with official Trade Unionism, had no 
doubts as to how the question should be answered; they 
wanted legislation which would reverse the effect of the 
Osborne judgment. But the Liberal Government showed 
itself capable of seeing the matter in a broader light, and 
the Bill that was brought forward was not a simple affirma 
tion of the rights of Trade Unions to impose political levies 
on its members. " There are three principles," as Rufus 
Isaacs said in his speech on the third reading, " underlying 



320 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

the construction of the Bill. The first is that all trade unions 
shall be free, if the majority wish, to collect funds, for 
political purposes. The second is that members shall be 
free to express their views by ballot properly taken for that 
purpose, and the third is that those who object shall be free 
to obtain exemption from their obligation to contribute to 
political funds." Rufus Isaacs, therefore, in moving the 
second reading, stated his opinion that trade unions should 
be allowed to extend their activities from the industrial to 
the political sphere. But the Bill, which he was introducing, 
would only sanction political funds if the rules of the union 
were approved by the Registrar of Friendly Societies j and 
they would not be so approved unless the Registrar was 
satisfied that the application of funds to political objects- was 
authorised by a resolution taken at a bona fide ballot j that 
members might exempt themselves from subscribing to the 
fund 5 and that such as exempted themselves did not suffer 
in the matter of benefits. 

Rufus Isaacs introduced the measure in a conciliatory 
speech, but its rejection was moved by the Conservatives on 
the ground that it was unfair to individual Trade Unionists, 
who did not happen to be in sympathy with the political 
aims of the Labour Party, and that the interference in 
politics of organised corporations would be a source of cor 7 
ruption. The motion for rejection, however, was defeated 
by a hundred votes and the Bill proceeded to Committee, 
where in the words of Rufus Isaacs, " we had fourteen days 
of very strenuous work, sitting till close upon four o'clock 
on all days except the first two in order to get the Bill 
through ... I think I should not be exaggerating if I said 
the Bill had a very stormy and protracted passage through 
Committee. There were certain adverse winds blowing, not 
always from the same quarter. There were cross-currents, 
and the Government had very often a somewhat difficult 
course to steer owing to the pressure on one side and pressure 
on the other ; but I am glad to say ... we managed to get 
it, if not to harbour, at least within sight of harbour, and 
when we came down to this House on the Report stage we 



SUFFRAGETTES AND TRADE UNIONS 321 

certainly found much quieter and smoother waters." At 
any rate he got it near enough to harbour, for Mr Bonar 
Law, on behalf of the Conservative Party, said that his 
objections to the Bill had been modified by amendments in 
Committee and in the Report stage, and that he would not 
therefore oppose the third reading. Rufus Isaacs wound up 
for the Government in an explanatory speech, in which he 
welcomed the Conservative decision and defended the Trade 
Unions from the criticism that they had not been able to do 
anything to improve labour conditions. 

The Bill, which became law on March 7th, 1913, had 
much to recommend it. If a body of men, organised 
primarily for industrial purpose, desires to extend the use 
of the organisation to political purposes, it is a legitimate, 
if not necessarily a laudable desire; and the Trade Union 
Act of 1913 sanctioned and facilitated the attainment of this 
desire, without making compulsory the adherence of indi 
vidual objectors to the will of the majority. But where the 
Act would seem to have been mistaken was in instituting the 
system known as contracting-outj that is to say, it enacted 
that there was a presumption in favour of the political levy, 
if decided upon, in the case of individual members, unless 
they notified otherwise. Now to presume that every person 
who joins a body for industrial and insurance purposes, 
should want it to become a political organisation in addition, 
at an increased cost to himself is illogical ; and it is still 
further illogical to suppose that every such person should 
necessarily favour the politics of the Socialist Party. But 
this was virtually the assumption made by the system of 
contracting-out. It is clearly. more logical that those who 
wish to extend the activities of an organisation into a direction 
in which it was not the primary intention to go, should have 
the onus of signifying their intention (not always a popular 
thing in a community governed by majority decisions). Such 
at any rate was the view taken by the Conservative Govern 
ment after the General Strike, and the Act of 1927, while 
retaining the right to a political fund, substituted a system 
of " contracting-in " for those who wished to subscribe to it. 



322 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

Towards the end of 1912 Rufus Isaacs as Attorney- 
General appeared in the very unusual case which is known 
as Bowles v. The Bank of England. Mr Gibson Bowles 
was a Conservative Member of Parliament, a man of inde 
pendence and of spirit 5 and so, when the Bank on July ist, 
1912, deducted from the 900 dividend due on his 65,500 
Irish Land Stock, a sum of 52, los. 8d. by way of income 
tax, he challenged their right to do so. And, strangely 
enough, their right was not as incontestable as admirers of 
that august institution would suppose. The income tax of 
is. 2d. in the pound had been imposed, it is true, by the 
Budget in the ordinary way; that is to say, the Committee 
of Ways and Means of the House of Commons had passed 
a resolution approving of the imposition of the income tax 
for the financial year commencing April 6th, 1912, and this 
decision had been adopted by the House of Commons as a 
whole on June 24th, 1912. On this authority the Bank, as 
was their custom, deducted the amount of income tax by way 
of taxation at source. But, though it was their custom and 
though the country's finances depended upon the regular 
collection of taxation, the deduction had in fact no justifica 
tion in law. For income tax is not a permanent tax; it lapses 
at the end of each year, and is reimposed, with a possible 
variation in rate, by statute. But taxatfon can only be by 
Act of Parliament, and a resolution of " that part of Parlia 
ment, which is called the House of Commons " is clearly 
not an Act of Parliament. Therefore, when income tax 
lapsed at the end of the financial year and had been re- 
imposed only by resolution of the House of Commons, the 
imposition was not valid, and the action of the Bank in 
deducting the amount was illegal. So argued Mr Gibson 
Bowles; and it was in vain that the Bank pleaded that " ever 
since the imposition of the income tax by the Income Tax 
Act, 1842, the defendants have always been accustomed to 
treat such resolutions ... as sufficient authority to deduct 
income tax in respect of interest on Government stocks 
becoming payable after the passage of such resolution . . . 
before the passing of the Act of Parliament carrying out 



SUFFRAGETTES AND TRADE UNIONS 323 

such resolutions." It was in vain, too, that Rufus Isaacs, on 
behalf of the Crown and the Commissioners of Inland 
Revenue, argued that income tax was in substance a per 
manent tax, and the practice was one of great practical 
convenience. Mr Gibson Bowles appealed robustly to 
Magna Carta and to the Bill of Rights, challenging the 
Attorney-General to show any authority to suggest that the 
power of taxation is to be found anywhere except in Act of 
Parliament. Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights carried 
the day, and Mr Justice Parker delivered judgment in 
favour of Mr Gibson Bowles. The Bank, as its counsel Mr 
Romer, K.C., said, had been placed " in the awkward 
position of being sued by Mr Bowles if it deducts the tax, 
and of being sued by the Inland Revenue if it does not! " 
The Government might have been placed in a very awkward 
position, too, and for a moment the whole financial structure 
of the country quivered under Mr Bowles 3 gay assault. But 
Parliament hastened to the rescue, and the Provisional Col 
lection of Taxes Act was passed to empower the raising of 
taxation by the authority of a resolution of the House of 
Commons alone. And so nowadays, Magna Carta and the 
Bill of Rights would not avail the reluctant income tax 
payer as they did in the case of the stout Mr Bowles. 



CHAPTER XXIV 



THE last period o Rufus Isaacs' Attorneyship was 
overcast by the dull clouds of suspicion which gathered 
over him and finally burst into a storm which bade fair 
to shatter his whole public career. The occasion was the 
famous Marconi " scandal," which came to be the subject of 
the bitterest political controversy of the time and the merits 
of which are still not infrequently matter of discussion 
to-day. The charges levelled at this period are fortunately 
charges which are rarely even whispered in public life 3 
briefly, they were that Ministers had used their position to 
favour a private concern in securing a Government contract, 
because the Managing Director of the company was the 
brother of a Minister, and that they had used information, 
gained by them during the negotiations in their capacity as 
members of the Government, to obtain shares at a low price 
and to make great profits on them, by selling them at a much 
higher price, when the acceptance of the tenders was made 
known. The company in question was the Marconi Company, 
and its Managing Director was Godfrey Isaacs, Rufus' 
younger brother. 

The Marconi Company had been formed to exploit the 
possibilities of wireless telegraphy, which at that period was 
passing from its infancy to a very promising adolescence - y 
and the name of Marconi was acquiring a fame which had 
been stimulated in England by his appearance as a witness 
before the Titanic Commission while the disaster itself had 
emphasised the necessity for a more efficient system of wire 
less communication. In point of fact there was a British 
Marconi Company and an American Marconi Company, the 
British Company having a large holding in the American 
Company, though the American had none in the British. 



THE MARCONI "SCANDAL" 325 

In March of 1910 the British Company applied to the 
Colonial Office to put up wireless stations in various parts 
of the British Empire, the aim being to link up the Empire 
with a vast chain of wireless communication. The request 
was referred by the Colonial Office to the Cable Landing 
Rights Committee, an inter-departmental body within 
whose province the matter was deemed to lie. This Com 
mittee reported on May 19, 1911, that it was best that such 
telegraphic stations should be owned by the State, but 
recommended that negotiations should be entered into with 
the Marconi Company, which had already worked wireless 
telegraphy with commercial success. The report was in its 
turn submitted to the Committee of Imperial Defence, who 
appointed a sub-committee of nine members to go fully 
into the matter and on June 1st the sub-committee recom 
mended that a chain of wireless stations should be formed 
between the United Kingdom, India, and Australia, and 
that negotiations should be entered into with the Marconi 
Company. Finally a meeting of the Imperial Conference 
unanimously resolved on the motion of the Prime Minister 
of New Zealand that an attempt should be made to bind 
the various parts of the Empire together by a chain of 
wireless telegraphic communication. 

Fortified by this encouraging accumulation of assent, Mr 
Herbert Samuel, the Postmaster-General, set about trying 
to give effect to these recommendations. A committee was 
set up in August, 1911, with himself as chairman and the 
High Commissioners of New Zealand, Australia and South 
Africa included in the membership, and it was resolved that 
negotiations should be entered into. On February I3th, 
1912, the Marconi Company sent in its tender, which was 
accepted by the Government on March yth, and on July 
1 9th a formal contract was concluded. But, of course, such 
a contract requires the ratification of Parliament, and it 
came before the House of Commons for consideration on 
August 7th. Here, however, and in the country and the 
Press as well, there was determined opposition to the terms 
of the contract, on the ground that they were much too 



326 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

favourable to the company, and in consequence further dis 
cussion of the matter was postponed until the Autumn 
session. But during the recess ugly rumours sprang up, 
to the effect that Herbert Samuel had clearly been persuaded 
by Rufus Isaacs to make a bargain on behalf of the State, 
advantageous to the company with which Godfrey Isaacs 
was connected, while Rufus Isaacs and other Ministers had 
taken advantage of the enormous rise in Marconi shares 
(they rose from 2 in August, 1911, to over 4 in March, 
1912, when the acceptance of the tender was known, and 
to over 9 by the end of April) to make a vast profit; 
these^ rumours were repeated, and grew in the swift, 
effective anonymity of their kind. For the most part 
the charges were whispered and insinuated, but some 
journals, in particular Mr Cecil Chesterton's Eye-Witness, 
stated them bluntly, and one paragraph read: "Isaacs' 
brother is chairman of the Marconi Company. It has, 
therefore, been secretly arranged between Isaacs and 
Samuel that the British people shall give the Marconi 
Company a very large sum of money through the agency 
of the said Samuel and for the benefit of the said Isaacs." 
This was plain speaking indeed, and Mr Samuel was con 
cerned as to whether he should take legal action, and con 
sulted Rufus Isaacs on the point, who referred the matter 
to the Prime Minister. Asquith wrote back: 

MY DEAR RUFUS, 

I return the enclosed. I have read carefully this scurrilous 
rubbish, and I am clearly of opinion that you should take no 
notice of it. Samuel gives some excellent reasons in his letter. 
I suspect the Eye-Witness has a very meagre circulation. I 
notice only one page of advertisements and that occupied by 
books of Belioc's publishers. Prosecution would secure it 
notoriety, which might yield subscribers. We have broken 
weather, and but for Winston there would be nothing in the 
newspapers. 

Yours always, 

H. H. ASQUITH. 
And so no legal redress was sought. But gossip and 



THE MARCONI " SCANDAL 3*7 

rumour went sedulously forward, and Rufus Isaacs gave 
the House of Commons a vivid picture of his own feelings 
at that time: " When I returned from abroad," he said, " I 
found that these charges were being made whispered from 
house to house, spoken in the Lobbies, stated in cowardly 
fashion in magazines to the extent that as I walked across 
the Lobbies or in the streets or to the Courts, I could feel 
the pointing of the finger as I passed." 

Such indeed was the range and violence of the allegations 
that the Government felt it better in October to move in 
Parliament for the appointment of a Committee of inquiry 
rather than to seek at once Parliamentary ratification for the 
contract. In the debate on the appointment of the select 
committee, Rufus Isaacs and Mr Lloyd George, whose name 
rumour had coupled with his in the transaction, both denied 
that they had any interest, direct or indirect in the British 
Marconi Company. If this were so, it seemed as if both the 
charges must collapse; for the charge of corruptly favouring 
a private company, which was aimed primarily at Mr 
Samuel as the allocator of the contract, could not stand 
in the face of the fact that two committees, with which Mr 
Samuel had no connection, had recommended negotiations 
before the matter had come under his official cognisance. 
And if Rufus Isaacs and Mr Lloyd George had no connec 
tion with the company, then the other charge must be equally 
baseless. Consequently, when the Committee started its 
investigations, it seemed reasonably probable that the 
rumour, like so many other rumours, would be found to be 
not only untrue, but without any sort of justification which 
might reasonably excuse it. 

So it might have seemed j and, as the months went by, 
the Select Committee appeared to be in no hurry to call the 
Attorney-General or the Chancellor of the Exchequer 
before them as witnesses. But then something happened, 
which altered the complexion of events. On February I4h, 
1913, Le Matin published, under the title " un scandale 
financier en Angleterre" a repetition of the allegations 
against the Ministers. Four days later they published a 



328 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

full apology, stating that the official documents did not at all 
bear out the rumours, and regretting any injury that might 
possibly have been caused "a trois hommes dont P honor- 
abilite ne saurait etre mise en doute" Nevertheless Rufus 
Isaacs and Herbert Samuel resolved to bring a libel action 
and the case was heard on March igth before Mr Justice 
Darling. The defendants put in an expression of regret and 
full apology, but nevertheless a very strong team of advo 
cates, headed by Sir Edward Carson and F. E. Smith, was 
briefed for the plaintiffs. Now Carson and F. E. Smith 
were, of course, the foremost Conservative gladiators of the 
day, and it was widely felt in Conservative circles that they 
should not have accepted the brief, since it would debar them 
from expressing an opinion if the matter came up in Parlia 
ment. Indeed the criticism was so widespread as to be 
endorsed in a leading article in the Times in June, to which 
F. E. Smith replied in a characteristic letter: " I will content 
myself," he wrote, " with saying that I have spent twenty 
years of my life in strenuous contention on behalf of the 
Conservative Party. But I have not surrendered to that 
or any other party, and I never will, my independence of 
judgment in matters of professional propriety." Be the 
rights of this question as they may, Carson and F. E. Smith 
conducted the case, and Rufus Isaacs gave evidence, in the 
course of which he referred to his purchase of shares in the 
American Marconi Company. 

The result of the case had, of course, never been in doubt. 
But what attracted attention was not the result, but this 
new element which had suddenly been introduced. What 
were these American shares? And why had nobody heard 
of them before? At once tongues were wagging fiercely as 
ever to provide explanations, generally uncharitable 5 and 
the Liberal Party, which had hoped that the end of the 
whole business was in sight, felt that the hunt was up once 
more. At any rate it was now obvious that Rufus Isaacs 
and Lloyd George must be called by the Committee at once, 
and called upon they were to give their own explanation and 
subject themselves to examination. 



THE MARCONI "SCANDAL" 329 

Now, what in fact was the explanation of the American 
shares? There^was, as we have seen, an American Marconi 
Company, as distinct from the British Marconi Company, 
which had no shares in the British Company which had made 
the contract with the Government. Mr Godfrey Isaacs had 
made himself responsible for placing 500,000 and suggested 
to his^ brothers Rufus and Harry that they should take'some, 
explaining to them that the Company's transactions were 
limited to the United States and that it had no interest in 
the British Company's contract with the British Government. 
Rufus Isaacs derided not to take up any shares, although 
his brother Harry took 50,000. This was on April 9th, 
19125 on April 1 7th, 1912, he bought IO,OOO shares from 
Harry Isaacs at the market price of 2, having previously 
satisfied himself by inquiry that the company had no interest 
in the agreement made with the British Government. On 
the same day he informed Mr Lloyd George, the Chancellor 
of the Exchequer, and the Master of Elibank, the Liberal 
Chief Whip, of his purchase, and they bought one thousand 
shares each from him at the same price, payment not being 
required on the spot. The investment at first looked like 
being an extremely profitable one, for the shares rose in price 
and Rufus Isaacs sold 3570 shares at an average of 
3, 6s. 6d. a' share 5 thus on this transaction he was left with 
a profit of 4,730. Later, however, the shares depreciated 
and at the time of his giving evidence before the Committee 
(March 25th) they stood at one to one and one-sixteenth; 
therefore on the 6430 shares which he had left (including the 
two thousand passed on to Mr Lloyd George and the Master 
of Elibank, who had not as yet paid for theirs) he had a loss 
of 6430. Setting against this his previous profit, he had 
lost 1600 in all, of which his two colleagues owed him 
a tenth each, that is 320. Therefore Rufus Isaacs' per 
sonal loss was about 1280. 

Rufus Isaacs stated these facts with great frankness, when 
he appeared before the Committee on March 25. He 
occupied the witness-chair for two days and a half, and had 
the experience, which must be unique for an Attorney- 



330 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

General with the great reputation for cross-examination 
enjoyed by Rufus Isaacs, of himself undergoing strenuous 
and skilful cross-examination, but he did not flinch from 
the ordeal, and showed himself as capable in his unaccus 
tomed role as in the more usual role of counsel. It was 
unfortunate, therefore, that the committee was not better 
adapted to its task. It should have been some form of 
judicial committee, which could have approached its task 
in the spirit of a competent legal tribunal ; instead of this, 
however, the committee was a Parliamentary committee, 
exactly reflecting the existing state of parties in the House 
of Commons. In the circumstances, and in view of the 
bitterness of party faction at the time and the extent to 
which the findings of the committee might influence party 
fortunes, it was perhaps inevitable that, while all were 
anxious for the truth, some of the Conservatives should be 
disposed to find that the truth was not a pretty thing, while 
some of the Liberals were convinced that the action of their 
leaders could not but have been above reproach. However 
this may be, Rufus Isaacs did undergo a tolerably searching 
cross-examination at the hands of Lord Robert Cecil, Mr 
Amery, and Mr Faber, the banker. The laymen were 
perhaps somewhat outclassed, but the exchanges between 
Lord Robert Cecil and Sir Rufus Isaacs were worthy of the 
Courts at their best; and there is this virtue in cross- 
examination, whatever may be its immediate effect on the 
examinee, that it does enable him to give his own explanation 
if it stands the test in the most convincing way. 

Rufus Isaacs told the Committee the story of his acquisi 
tion of the American shares, and said that he had enjoyed no 
undue advantage in the purchase. He was asked whether 
the public could have bought the shares at 2 on April 
1 7th, and he said: " I really do not understand why not. 
There were 1,400,000 going to be issued. There were 
dealings in America, people were buying and selling, and 
that was what constituted the market price. I had no full 
inside knowledge: I had no more inside knowledge than any 
person who might have any of the 1,400,000 shares. The 



THE MARCONI "SCANDAL" 331 

only extra knowledge I had was that my brother was telling 
me his views of the prospects which I relied upon." There 
were, it is true, no formal dealings in American Marconi 
shares on the London Stock Exchange before April I9th, 
but there were, he claimed, dealings in them, both on the 
Stock Exchange "and on the street, for several days before 
April 1 7th when he had made his purchase from his brother. 
As to his " reticence " about his American shares in the 
debate in the House of Commons on the appointment of the 
select committee, he had not then referred to them because 
he felt it to be irrelevant to the issues, which up till that 
time had been raised ; it was a question which he considered 
to belong much more properly to the Committee, before 
which he had expected to be summoned to give evidence 
almost immediately. When he found that he was not so 
summoned, he had taken the first opportunity in the Le 
Matin case to make reference to the matter. 

The hearing was enlivened with several sharp passages, 
and Sir Rufus showed signs of considerable feeling on more 
than one occasion. On the second day he made a spirited 
reference to the objects of Lord Robert Cecil's examination: 
" If any member of the Committee," he said, " is imputing 
to me anything which affects my personal honour and 
integrity, then I demand that it should be put into perfectly 
plain language (Lord Robert Cecil: " Certainly ") ; I 
demand also, as I am entitled to demand, that the charge 
should be formulated. I have raised no question and have 
submitted myself to the fullest examination and cross- 
examination without objection. I raise none now, but I do 
think I am entitled to have at any rate the kind of justice 
which is meted out to the commonest criminal namely, 
that you tell him what the charge is." Later in his answers 
to Mr Amery's questions he again showed some heat, and 
his emphatic declaration won applause from the public: " Is 
there any man," he asked passionately, " who read these 
articles who would not have thought that what was meant 
to be conveyed was that we had all been guilty of corrup 
tion? " 



33* LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

" Or impropriety/' interjected Mr Macmaster. 

" No, Mr Macmaster/' he replied. " Don't let us get 
off into that. Let me finish what I have got to say. I will 
not be stopped. I am being charged with something, and 
all I mean to say in regard to it is, I ask you, Sir, and I ask 
the Committee that we cannot have a confusion between a 
charge of corruption and a charge o impropriety. One 
concerns the honour, the other concerns the judgment of a 
man." 

" There is no dispute about that," said Lord Robert Cecil. 
" We are not trying journalists." 

" Are you trying me? " 

" No, we are. inquiring into the facts." 

The chairman, Sir Albert Spicer, presented his draft 
report on May 28th 5 but before this the prosecution of Mr 
Cecil Chesterton for criminal libel on Mr Godfrey Isaacs 
had been begun. Sir Edward Carson and Mr F. E. Smith 
appeared for the prosecution, but Mr Chesterton would 
have been convicted, even if faced with less able counsel 5 
for, instead of confining himself to a temperate criticism of 
the points on which he might justly have commented, he 
made reckless allegations of corruption and showed a sur 
prising ignorance of the law of libel. He was in consequence 
convicted after a trial, in which Rufus Isaacs had given 
evidence in addition to his brother and Mr Herbert Samuel. 
Mr G. K. Chesterton was a witness to character on behalf 
of his brother, and stated to the Court that he envied his 
brother the dignity of his present position. 

But considerably more real interest attached to the finding 
of the Committee, for it had been fairly obvious to every 
body that Mr Chesterton's sweeping allegations could never 
stand the test of inquiry. But what of the Committee's 
authoritative finding on the whole issue? The Committee 
was not able to find unanimity although they were all agreed 
in acquitting the Ministers concerned of all charge of cor 
ruption. On May 28th Sir Albert Spicer presented his 
draft report as chairman; on June 2nd Lord Robert Cecil 
and Mr Falconer, a Liberal member of the Committee, 



THE MARCONI "SCANDAL" 333 

presented alternative reports. The Committee considered 
the chairman's report, but on the whole the majority pre 
ferred Mr Falconer's report, very large portions of which 
they substituted for the chairman's report, and the Majority 
Report, when it was published on June I3th, proved to be 
highly favourable to the Ministers. It found that there 
was no foundation for any charge made against Ministers 
in respect of the negotiation of the contract or of dealings 
in the shares of the English company; further the people 
who made the charges had no reason to believe that they 
were true, and were guilty of a " slander of a particularly 
vile character, which could not be too strongly condemned." 
As to the purchase of American shares, the Report found that 
the Ministers bona fide believed, and had reason to believe, 
that the American company had no interest in the agreement 
between the British company and the British Government ; 
and " on the whole matters relating to the conduct of Mini 
sters which have come before the Committee, the Committee 
finds that all the Ministers concerned have acted throughout 
in the sincere belief that there was nothing in their action 
which would in any way conflict with their duty as Ministers 
of the Crown." 

The Report was widely criticised as being a " whitewash 
ing "^ report} and there was, in fact, virtually no criticism 
of ministerial action in the whole Report, whose severity 
was^ reserved for those who had dared to comment on the 
affair. As such the Report did not commend itself to the 
good sense of the public who, although approving the finding 
of no corruption, felt that there should be some censure of 
the Ministers, whose indiscretion had inevitably given colour 
to darker suspicions. Such, too, was the feeling of a large 
number of the Committee, and the Report was only adopted 
by eight votes to six. The Conservatives identified them 
selves with Lord Robert Cecil's Minority Report, which was 
nearer to the Chairman's report; and both Sir Albert's (who 
was, of course, himself a Liberal) and Lord Robert's were 
nearer to the facts than the Majority Report. Both reports 
agreed with the Majority Report in vindicating the Ministers 



334 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

from a charge of corruption; and Lord Robert's Report, 
which was the most hostile, categorically stated ^that no 
Minister had been influenced in the discharge of his public 
duties by any interest in the Marconi undertaking, or had 
used official information for investment or speculation. In 
respect of the American shares, too,, the Chairman's Report 
found that Sir Rufus had acted in perfectly good faith, 
believing that the American Company was not in any way 
connected with the solvency, success or contracts of the 
English Company; but, added Sir Albert, "Sir Rufus 
Isaacs would, in the judgment of your Committee, have 
been well advised if, when invited by Mr Harry Isaacs to 
acquire these rights he had adhered to the resolution formed 
by him when Mr Godfrey Isaacs made a similar proposal, 
and had nothing to with it." Also " if on the occasion of 
the debate in the House of Commons on October i ith, 1912, 
it had occurred to the Ministers whose conduct had been 
impugned to make a statement of facts as disclosed in the 
action of Le Matin, such a statement would in the judgment 
of your Committee, and as subsequent events have proved, 
have tended to avert misunderstanding and to lessen, in 
considerable measure, the labours of your Committee." This 
mild rebuke was sharply emphasised by Lord Robert Cecil's 
Report, which found that Sir Rufus had committed a grave 
"impropriety" by making an advantageous purchase of 
shares by means of information not available to the public 
at a time when the contract, though ratified by the Govern 
ment, had not obtained the sanction of Parliament. The 
Report was also of opinion that the American Marconi 
Company was materially interested, although indirectly, in 
the conclusion of an agreement between the English Mar 
coni Company and the British Government, and, therefore, 
it was " highly inadvisable for Ministers to take shares in 
the American Marconi Company, while the agreement was 
still pending." When once shares had been taken, however, 
it had been the duty of Ministers to disclose the transaction 
to the House of Commons in the debate in October, 1912; 
and " we regard that reticence as a grave error of judgment 



THE MARCONI "SCANDAL" 335 

and as wanting in frankness and respect for the House of 
Commons." 

The Reports were published on June I3thj but unfor 
tunately the matter could not end there. It was clear that 
the Ministers had not been guilty of corruption; that was 
no longer in dispute. But it was felt that the Majority 
Report had not faced up to the issues j and, in point of fact, 
its signatories had rendered no service to Sir Rufus Isaacs 
and Mr Lloyd George, for their Report was of necessity for 
the most part disregarded, whereas a unanimous finding, 
though it would have been sterner than the Majority Report, 
might have put an end to the matter. But, as it was, Mr 
Cave (who was later, as Viscount Cave, to become Lord 
Chancellor) put down on behalf of the Opposition an official 
motion of censure upon the Ministers concerned. To Rufus 
Isaacs and to Mr Lloyd George the occasion was momen 
tous 5 their very continuance in public life was in peril, and 
it looked as if the slow accumulation of past achievement 
and the towering edifice of future aspiration might equally 
come crashing to the ground. At no period since he had 
been hammered on the Stock Exchange had the tide of 
Rufus Isaacs' fortunes ebbed so far. But that youthful 
disaster had not been irrevocable ; this time, if he lost, he 
lost for ever. And there were not wanting Liberals who 
urged upon the Prime Minister the advisability of sacrificing 
the men upon whom suspicion had fallen in such a way as 
to damage the credit and fortunes of the Party. But Mr 
Asquith was a loyal colleague, and although in the words 
of his biographer, " he certainly thought that they had them 
selves very largely to thank for the suspicion that they had 
incurred on this occasion, having satisfied himself that there 
was no corrupt act or intention, he came to the conclusion 
that the only penalty which he had it in his power to inflict 
would be out of all proportion to the offending." 

Nevertheless, though Mr Asquith refused to cashier his 
colleagues, the passage of the vote of censure would equally 
be fatal to the continuance of the two parties concerned in 
public life. (The Master of Elibank, it may be mentioned, 



336 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

had been called away by business commitments to some 
inaccessible spot in Mexico.) The House and galleries, 
therefore, were crowded and it was a House which had not 
been above howling " sticky fingers " at Rufus Isaacs and 
Mr Lloyd George and the atmosphere taut with excite 
ment, when Mr Cave rose to move his vote of censure. His 
speech, which was one of studied moderation, was listened 
to attentively by the House, and not least by Rufus Isaacs 
on the Treasury Bench and Mr Lloyd George, who sat next 
to Mr Asquith with arms folded and head thrown back; for 
Mr Lloyd George belongs to the school of thought which 
believes that the best defence is defiance. After the speeches 
of Mr Cave and his seconder, Rufus Isaacs, who had risen so 
often to cross-examine or to prosecute, rose to speak in his 
own defence. For a few moments he stood at the box, 
gripping it with both hands and waiting while the deep, 
continuous cheers rolled across the Liberal benches ; he 
looked grey and overwrought as he stood there, but in that 
great moment he faced his judges for so virtually they 
were and did not falter. And then he began to speak, not 
angrily, nor blusteringly, nor pleadingly ; but resolutely, 
lucidly, and at time with great feeling. Taken merely as 
a speech, it is probably the best Parliamentary effort that 
Rufus Isaacs ever made, and it certainly made a profound 
impression; a contemporary newspaper spoke of it as a 
" speech the manliness of which deeply impressed his 
audience." In his speech he gave a long account of his 
purchase of the shares, emphasising the fact that he had not 
wished to conceal his transactions from the House in the 
debate in October j he had expected to be called very early 
before the Committee, and when that did not happen, he 
took the first opportunity of revealing the matter in the 
Le Matin action. As to the manner of the purchase, " what 
I ask the House to accept is that I was receiving no favour 
from my brother Godfrey, that I accepted no favour, that 
the offer he made me I refused, and. therefore, from that 
moment all relations between him and me came to an end." 
Nor would he plead for mercy or indulgence: " I do not 



THE MARCONI "SCANDAL" 337 

ask," he said, " the House or any member of it, to judge 
this transaction of mine by any lower standard than has been 
applied by the House of Commons at any time aye, and 
I go further, and say that I do not ask this House to judge 
my conduct by any lower standard than has been imposed by 
the Liberal Party as applicable to Ministers and that is the 
higher test." He then proceeded to lay down rules of 
behaviour: that no Minister should use any information 
obtained as a Minister to further private interests; that 
Ministers should be guided solely by public interest and 
should not use their influence to obtain contracts with 
Government departments for their relatives or friends 5 that 
no Minister should place himself in a position which might 
reasonably expose him, in the opinion of fair-minded men, 
to suspicion of corruption, even though his conscience is clear. 
In regard to this last, and important, point, he said: " In my 
view no^one can protect himself against the suspicion of the 
evilly-disposed. . . It never occurred to me during the whole 
course of those transactions that any human being could 
suspect ^me of corruption because I purchased American 
Marconi shares some six weeks after the announcement was 
made of the acceptance of the tender of the British Marconi 
Company by the British Government 5 if I had had all the 
facts present to my mind at the time I entered into that 
transaction, if I had known then all that I know now, if all 
had been disclosed to me which subsequent events have 
revealed, if I had realised that men could be so suspicious 
of any action of mine, if I had thought that such misrepre 
sentation could possibly exist, I state quite plainly that I 
would not have entered into this transaction. I need scarcely 
tell the House that I have given this matter very careful 
consideration before I made this statement, and I say 
solemnly and sincerely it was a mistake to purchase those 
shares." 

Thus Rufus Isaacs had coupled with his explanation a 
confession that he had been in error; and the confession was 
echoed by Mr Lloyd George, for all that he began to speak 
in a belligerent tone. This rather took the wind out of the 



338 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

sails of their critics, for it is poor fun belabouring people to 
try and make them regret an action which they have already 
said that they do regret. It seemed not improbable, there 
fore, when Rufus Isaacs and Mr Lloyd George left the 
Chamber amid loud cheers from their supporters at the end 
of Mr Lloyd George's speech (for they could not stay in the 
Chamber while their conduct was being debated by their 
equals) that the motion would be withdrawn. But the 
debate was continued and after Lord Robert Cecil had 
claimed that Sir Rufus and Mr Lloyd George took too 
personal a view of the matter, Mr Buckmaster, subsequently 
to become a Liberal Lord Chancellor, brought forward an 
amendment to the effect that " this House after hearing the 
statements of the Attorney-General and the Chancellor of 
the Exchequer . . . accepts those statements and deems it 
right to put on record their reprobation of the false charges 
of the gravest description brought against Ministers which 
have proved -to be wholly without foundation." Mr Buck- 
master made a very graceful reference to the Attorney- 
General: " He is by his official position," he said, " the head 
of our profession. It is a profession where competition is 
pitiless and fierce, a profession where few men win and many 
fail, and . . . the success of no man can be attained without 
the closest and most searching investigation of character and 
honour, and yet no one will dispute that the Attorney- 
General in gaining the position he has gained has won not 
merely admiration but esteem, honour, and affection from 
the men whom he has out-stripped and out-distanced in the 



race." 



Nevertheless, it was felt that the amendment, like the 
Majority Report, was one-sided, for it contained no refer 
ences to expressions of regret on the part of the Ministers 
concerned 3 and after sagacious and generous speeches by 
Mr Balfour and Mr Asquith, who said and one can readily 
believe him that he had rarely risen to address the House 
with a greater reluctance, the temper of the debate went up, 
and Mr Buckmaster withdrew his amendment in the hope 
that Sir Ryland Adkins' amendment would obtain the un- 



THE MARCONI "SCANDAL" 339 

animous approval which his own had clearly failed to com 
pass. Sir Ryland's amendment ran: " That this House, 
after hearing . . . accepts their expressions of regret that such 
purchases were made, and that they were not mentioned in 
the debate on October nth last, acquits them of acting 
otherwise than in good faith, and reprobates the charges of 
corruption brought against Ministers, which have been 
proved to be wholly false." It might have been hoped that 
the House would have been able to adopt this unanimously, 
but it did not meet with the approval of the Opposition, on 
whose behalf Mr Bonar Law, in a speech in which he spoke 
of " feet of clay," proposed an alternative amendment, 
which agreed in its attitude to the charges of corruption but 
expressed the regret of the House instead of accepting the 
Ministers 3 expression of regret. It may seem a small dis 
tinction at this distance of time, but one can, of course, see 
Mr Bonar Law's ^ point 5 he felt that the circumstances 
demanded an opinion of the House, rather than a merely 
passive attitude of acceptance. His amendment did not, of 
course, commend itself to the majority of the House, and 
ultimately Sir Ryland Adkins' amendment was carried by 
346 to 268, a vote reflecting the strength of the parties in 
the House. 

Such was the unsatisfactory termination of an unsatis 
factory episode. At this distance of time, the best comment 
would seem to be that such disturbances of the even tenor of 
our public life are rare indeed. There is little in the episode 
on which any of the parties can congratulate themselves. 
Sir Rufus and Mr Lloyd George were unanimously, and 
very properly, acquitted of the charge of corruption, which 
had been flung at them without any sifting of the evidence 
or any real foundation ; but their purchase of the American 
shares and their failure to refer to it in the original debate 
were astounding errors of judgment in men whose judgment 
is not often at fault. Since the purchase had been made, it 
would have oeen much better to disclose it, even if it was 
not strictly relevant to the subject under discussion $ for 
neglect to do so meant that the Committee had to proceed 



340 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

through many sessions in ignorance of some of the main 
facts of the case. Disclosure in October would have been 
the wisest course after the purchase had been made; but it 
never should have been made. Rufus Isaacs satisfied him 
self by inquiry that the American Marconi Company had no 
interest in the British Company's agreement with the British 
Government, and there is no reason to suppose indeed, 
nobody suggested that he was not sincerely convinced that 
this was the case. But as a Minister of the Crown and 
brother to the Managing Director, he was in a position of 
great delicacy and it behoved him to be especially careful to 
avoid even the appearance of improper conduct; for, though 
the American Company had no shares in the British Com 
pany, the British Company had shares in the American, and 
some of the Directors were the same. -It would be very 
difficult, therefore, to be entirely certain that no advantage 
could possibly accrue to the American Company through the 
agreement, even though it were not a party to it; and indeed 
Lord Robert Cecil's Minority Report found that the 
American Company was materially, though indirectly, in 
terested in the conclusion of the agreement. Be that as it 
may, however and Sir Rufus Isaacs and Mr Lloyd George 
were naturally absolutely convinced that there was no such 
interest -the action was in the highest degree unwise; and 
nobody, not even the protagonists themselves, was really 
concerned to defend its wisdom. Mr Asquith, as we have 
seen, certainly thought that they had themselves very 
largely to thank 'for the suspicion that they had incurred on 
this occasion, and that is an opinion which would be very 
generally echoed. In the circumstances one's sympathy per 
haps goes less to them than to the Prime Minister, their 
colleagues and the Liberal Party, who were all to a greater 
or lesser extent involved in the consequences of their action 3 
and indeed the Liberal Party was further embarrassed bj 
the action of the Master of Elibank in purchasing three 
thousand American Marconi shares for the Party funds 
But although Rufus Isaacs and Mr Lloyd George escapee 
a vote of censure and were not driven from public life 



THE MARCONI "SCANDAL" 341 

although there was undoubtedly a large number of people 
who would not have been sorry to see the last of Mr Lloyd 
George m public affairs it must not be thought that they 
did not suffer. What they did suffer in those months of 
suspicion and recrimination is known only to themselves ; 
expiation they did make, but it is an expiation which is not 
susceptible of measurement or analysis. 

Circumstances, however, of a very different sort were soon 
to remove Rufus Isaacs from the political sphere. In 
October of 1913 Lord Alverstone, who had been Lord Chief 
Justice since 1900 and whose retirement had been rumoured 
several times, announced his resignation; and the office, in 
accordance with custom, was offered to the Attorney-General. 
Acceptance meant, of course, or appeared to mean, a sever 
ance with politics } but Rufus Isaacs had not even entered the 
House of Commons until he was considerably past forty, and 
had not become an assiduous Parliamentarian until he 
became a Law Officer of the Crown. His life had been 
spent primarily in the law and his great triumphs had been 
won there j politics, too, can hardly have seemed very sweet 
during the preceding twelve months. The office of Lord 
Chief Justice is non-political j but it is a position of great 
distinction and responsibility. The Lord Chancellor, it is 
true,^ is at the apex of the legal hierarchy -> but he is a 
politician, whose tenure of office is bounded by the fortunes 
of the party to which he belongs. The Lord Chief Justice, 
on the other hand, is permanent and independent of party, 
and it is he who to the general public is the embodiment of 
the * majesty and stability of the law; for he is the 
spokesman of the Judges, the chief criminal Judge in the 
country, and head of the Common Law courts. It was 
perhaps unfortunate that his appointment should come when 
the Marconi controversy was so fresh in mind, for there 
were not wanting those who criticised it on these grounds, 
and, in the words of the Times, " it can only be regarded 
as a great misfortune that an absorbing controversy should 
have brought hesitation and discord into what would other 
wise have been a unanimous chorus of approval." 



342 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

On Tuesday, October 2ist, Lord Reading for so Rufus 
Isaacs had become was sworn in as Lord Chief Justice. 
The scene lacked nothing in impressive grandeur. Nearly 
all the Judges of the High Court were present, and count 
less eminent King's Counsel, headed by Sir John Simon, the 
new Attorney 5 among them, too, was Sir Edward Clarke, 
with whom in the heyday of his power Rufus Isaacs had 
crossed swords. The Lord Chief Justice himself, wearing 
the crimson robe and gold chain of his office, and flanked by 
the Lord Chancellor and the Master of the Rolls in their 
robes of black and gold, took the oath in a very distinct 
voice, in which a trace of nervousness could perhaps be 
detected. Only one incident marred the splendid propriety 
of the occasion. After the oath had been taken, the Lord 
Chancellor, according to custom, welcomed the new Lord 
Chief Justice in a speech; he then proceeded to a eulogy of 
Lord Alverstone, the retiring Lord Chief Justice, which he 
spoke with considerable emotion. It was all the more 
shocking, therefore, to those present to hear a barrister, one 
Mr Hales, exclaim in a loud voice, just as Lord Haldane 
was drawing to a close, " Speak for yourself, Lord Haldane." 
Mr Hales was at once hustled out of Court by indignant 
barristers. But he afterwards took occasion to make it known 
that he had intended no disrespect to Lord Alverstone; he 
was hard of hearing and had thought that Lord Haldane 
was referring to the new Lord Chief Justice. 

The Marconi episode died hard, if haltingly. 



CHAPTER XXV 

WARTIME LORD CHIEF JUSTICE 

C'RD READING'S tenure of the office o Lord Chief 
Justice was to last over seven years, and was then to 
be terminated not, as is usual, by death or honoured 
retirement into leisure, but by the translation to a new and 
active sphere. But this was not the only respect in which 
his period of office was unusual 5 for a great part of it coin 
cided with the duration of the War, which had as revolution 
ary an effect upon the traditional concept of the Lord Chief 
Justice's duties as it had upon so many of the apparently 
deep-rooted ideas of the time. It must have seemed, when 
Lord Reading assumed office in October of 1913, that he 
must contemplate a career of long and unbroken service on 
the Bench j and to a man in the early fifties, accustomed to 
the hard struggles and immense rewards of the Bar and to 
the continual thrust and parry of Party politics, the prospect 
could hardly appear unduly exciting. Sed dis aliter visum; 
for within less than twelve months of his ^appointment, 
Europe was at war. And the War, which was to shake to 
its foundations the whole structure of society and rip into 
fragments the destinies of peoples, carried its imperious 
arbitrament to the destiny of the new Lord Chief Justice. 

The War evoked in Lord Reading his talent for negotia 
tion and diplomacy, which had hitherto found expression in 
the narrower field of Party politics and the consulting- 
chamber. The talent was found to be in him, and as the War 
proceeded was called upon in ever-increasing measure. 
Consequently from 1915 onwards the law and diplomacy 
ran parallel in his life until, with his appointment as Viceroy 
in January, 1921, he abandoned active connection with the 
profession after a period of over thirty years. It may be 
said at once that the situation of a Lord Chief Justice, who 

343 



344 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

is an international and diplomatic figure, would be impos 
sible except in obedience to the exigencies of war j for the 
office entails definite legal duties, which must in the course 
of things suffer if the holder of the office is distractedly 
the performance of other, and possibly incompatible duties. 
Indeed, as it was, the frequent absences of the Lord Chief 
Justice from Court, and sometimes from the country, was 
adversely commented on in some quarters, for tradition dies 
hard, even in time of war. But it was a thing for which 
the Coalition Government had little respect, and it needed 
the Lord Chief Justice for other duties 5 consequently, as 
time went on, Lord Reading was requisitioned more and 
more for other tasks, until his appointment as High Com 
missioner and Special Envoy to the United States in 1917 
caused a virtual suspension of his discharge of the duties of 
his legal office. 

Almost from the beginning of the War, Lord Reading s 
financial knowledge was drawn upon by the Government, 
and it was he who advised the Government guarantee to the 
great accepting houses j this was an action which involved 
Government backing for enormous transactions and, in 
giving the advice that he did, Lord Reading showed that he 
had early grasped the revolution that the conditions of war 
was to bring in methods of finance. Towards the end ^ of 
1915 he was President of the Anglo-French Mission, which 
went to the United States in order to raise a loan of 
100,000,000, which was to be spent by England and 
France in America on the purchase of war material. The 
Mission was successful in its object, and in America Reading 
scored a distinct personal success, which helped to indicate 
him for his subsequent appointment in the United States 
and facilitated his success in its conduct 5 the pages of Colonel 
House's volumes bear testimony to the good impression 
made by Lord Reading and to the measure of success which 
he secured. But Lord Reading's exploits in America, which 
won for him his elevation to a viscounty in July, 1916, are 
outside the scope of this book 5 and here it is more in point 
to recall that, in spite of his other activities, he did in the 



WARTIME LORD CHIEF JUSTICE 345 

earlier years of the War perform a considerable measure 
of judicial work of interest and value. 

One especially important branch of the law brought to 
the front by the War was that which relates to aliens, and 
Lord Reading was called upon to try several cases, which 
turned on the rights and liabilities of aliens in time of war. 
The most important of these was the celebrated case of 
Porter v. Freudenberg, in which the appeal was heard by 
the entire Court of Appeal, that is to say, by all seven 
judges who nominally compose that Court instead of by 
the minimum of three, which -is in point of fact the normal 
quota. The case was the result of an action by Porter to 
recover from Freudenberg the rent due under a lease for 
the premises in which Freudenberg had carried on business 
before the War 5 the War, however, made Freudenberg an 
alien enemy, and at the time of the trial he was resident 
in Berlin. Now in time of peace aliens have, with a trifling 
exception, the same capacity in regard to contracts as a 
natural-born British subject; but in time of war they may 
not enter into contracts with British subjects, and contracts 
made before the war which involve intercourse between the 
parties or are in any way contrary to public policy are 
dissolved by the outbreak of war. The case of Porter v. 
Freudenberg, however, raised the further points of the 
rights and liabilities of alien enemies in the British Courts 
with respect to contracts that exist before war time. That 
is to say, in Lord Reading's words, " first, the capacity of 
alien enemies to sue in the King's Courts 5 secondly, their 
liability to be sued; thirdly, their capacity to appeal to the 
Appellate Courts, and generally their right to appear and 
be heard in the King's Courts." The finding of the Court 
on these important issues can best be given in the words 
of the judgment in which Lord Reading expressed the 
unanimous opinion of the Court of Appeal: "An alien 
enemy's right to sue," he said, " or to proceed either by 
himself or by any other person on his behalf, in the King's 
Court, is suspended during the progress of hostilities, and 
until after peace is declared . . . The rule of law suspending 



346 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

the alien enemy's right of action is based on public policy, 
but no considerations of public policy are apparent which 
would justify preventing the enforcement by a British or 
neutral subject of a right against the enemy. The effect of 
this would be to convert that which during war is a disability, 
imposed upon the alien enemy because of his ^ hostile 
character, into a relief to him during war from the discharge 
of his liabilities to British subjects . . . Once this conclusion 
is reached that the alien enemy can be sued, if follows that 
he can appear and be heard in his defence and may take all 
such steps as may be necessary for the proper presentment 
of his defence. To deny him that right would be to deny 
him justice and would be quite contrary to the basic prin 
ciples guiding the King's Courts in the administration of 
justice." An only less important judgment was that 
delivered in the following year, July of 1916, by Lord 
Reading in the Court of Appeal in the case of Halsey v. 
Lowenfeld, in which the defendant, whom the War had also 
made an alien enemy, was sued for the rent due on the 
Prince of Wales Theatre. The question was whether an 
alien enemy can be sued during the war m respect of a 
covenant made before the war, and the decision of the Court 
of Appeal was that a covenant is not extinguished or sus 
pended by the outbreak of war, and the alien enemy may 
be sued for the rent accruing during the war. 

But the most interesting case of this sort which Lord 
Reading was called upon to try, was concerned not with 
aliens but with naturalised British subjects of very con 
siderable eminence. Sir Ernest Cassel and Sir Edgar Speyer 
were well-known Edwardian figures in the realms of finance 
and Society. Both were by birth German Jews, Cassel 
having been born in Cologne and Speyer in Frankfort^ but 
both settled in London and became naturalised British 
subjects. Sir Ernest Cassel had enormous banking interests 
and numbered among his achievements the founding of the 
Agricultural Bank of Egypt and the construction of the 
Central London Railway. But he was best known to the 
public as a man of vast wealth, great hospitality and con- 



WARTIME LORD CHIEF JUSTICE 347 

siderable philanthropy who had, amongst other munificent 
gifts,, endowed the King Edward VII Sanitorium for Tuber 
culosis at Midhurst, and whose entertainment was lavish 
m the extreme at a time when the standards of entertainment 
were high indeed. Frequently among his guests was King 
inward himself, whose great friend he was, and it was by 
the proud though unofficial title of " the King's friend " 
that Sir Ernest Cassel, financier, philanthropist, and racing- 
man was chiefly known. Sir Edgar Speyer was like Sir 
finest Cassel m that he was a financier of German origin, 
but, beyond that, the fact of their being joined in this case 
has led to a closer association of them in the public mind 
than the circumstances perhaps warranted, Speyer was born 
at Frankfort in 1862, and was thus considerably younger 
than Cassel 5 like him, however, he became a naturalised 
British subject and settled in London, where he was a 
director of the firm of Speyer Bros., and took the chief part 
in financing the Metropolitan District Railway and the 
" tube " trains. In politics he was an energetic adherent of 
the Liberal party, and in philanthropy his activities were 
wide and generous. But it was perhaps in the sphere of 
music that London at any rate had most cause to be grateful 
to him, for in his capacity as Chairman of the Queen's Hall 
Orchestra his enthusiasm and his wealth enabled him to do 
a great deal. 

The eve of the War, therefore, found the two men leading 
active, spacious, envied lives in all the various spheres to 
which wealth, ability or charm had given them entry. It 
must have seemed that this was the unalterable order of 
their existence, and they would tread it unchallenged till 
the end. Then came the War, and with it suspicion, mis 
trust and ^ imaginings, sometimes in moments of alarm 
deepening into something very like popular hysteria. For 
all these feelings Speyer and Cassel were an obvious target; 
were they not of German birth and had they not vast financial 
resources and social connections? Then they clearly had 
the will to be pro-German, and the means to be dangerously 
so ; so the rumour spread, and at such times rumour spreads 



348 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

fast and far. To try and stamp it out, to reveal and pro 
claim its lack of foundation was of no avail j rumour, like 
the guillotine, is no respecter of persons, and inexorably it 
struck^ down those favourites of fortune, Sir Ernest Cassel 
and Sir Edgar Speyer. In the case of Speyer there were 
rather ^ more facts on which to base such charges than there 
were in CassePs case, for Speyer's firm had interests in 
Germany and his brother in America was notoriously anti- 
British. In addition he had a house at Overstrand on the 
North Sea, which it was alleged, with a happy disregard for 
the fact that he had had it long before-tne War, he used 
for signalling and espionage purposes. But even without 
any of these circumstances, he would probably not have 
escaped the shrill accusations which the temper of the times 
was so quick to engender 5 and, even though there were a 
great number of people who refused to listen to the malicious 
stories which were so assiduously propagated, things got to 
such a pitch that Speyer felt constrained to write to the 
Prime Minister in May, 1915, saying, " I consider it due 
to my honour as a loyal British subject, and my personal 
dignity as a man, to retire from all my public positions. I 
therefore ask you to accept my resignation as a Privy 
Councillor and to revoke my baronetcy." To this letter 
Asquith replied: " I have known you long and well enough 
to estimate at their true value these baseless and malignant 
imputations upon your loyalty to the British Crown. The 
King is not prepared to take any step such as you suggest 
in regard to the marks of distinction which you have received 
in recognition of public services and philanthropic munifi 
cence. " 

The answer was worthy of a King and his Prime Minister, 
who were able to transcend the clamour of the vulgar. But 
Sir Edgar, who for a Privy Councillor must have been 
very ignorant of constitutional usage, had asked for the 
impossible; for membership of the Privy Council may not 
be resigned nor baronetcies revoked. Nevertheless Sir 
Edgar was not alone in thinking that he should not continue 
in the Privy Council ; there were those who thought that 



WARTIME LORD CHIEF JUSTICE 349 

legally he was disqualified by the fact of his alien birth. 
Prominent among these was Sir George Makgill, a Scottish 
baronet of old family, who was primarily known, in so far 
as he ^was^ known at all, as the author of stories dealing with 
colonial life j but late in 1915 he emerged in a new sphere 
of activity by bringing an action to make Sir Edgar Speyer 
and Sir Ernest Cassel show by what authority they claimed 
to be members of the Privy Council. The point was, as 
developed before Lord Reading and Mr Justice Avory and 
Mr Justice Lush in the King's Bench Division, that Sir 
Edgar Speyer and Sir Ernest Cassel, not having been born 
of British parents or within the United Kingdom or its 
dominions, were on. that account legally debarred from the 
right to be members of the Privy Council. Now it was 
indisputably true that such circumstances would in an earlier 
period of the country's' history have prevented Speyer and 
Cassel from serving on the Privy Council. Thus the Act 
of Settlement in 1700 had enacted that "no person born 
out of the kingdoms of England, Scotland, or Ireland, or 
the dominions thereunto belonging (although he be natural 
ised or made a denizen, except such as are born of English 
parents) shall be capable to be of the Privy Council or a 
member of either House of Parliament or to enjoy any 
office or place of trust, either civil or military ..." and the 
Act of 1844, known as Hutt's Act, though it improved 
the position of alien-borns, specifically maintained their 
exclusion from Parliament and the Privy Council. On the 
other side, however, it was contended that more recent 
legislation had altered the position, and had made natural 
ised aliens competent to serve even in these high places. 

Before the case could be argued, Sir Frederick Smith, 
who had become Attorney-General in the Coalition Govern 
ment and who appeared with Sir George Cave and Mr 
Branson for the Clerk of the Privy Council, entered a plea 
that the Court had no jurisdiction in the matter on the 
ground that, if there was a wrong, it was a usurpation of 
rights by the Crown, whereas the remedy was provided 
for usurpation against the Crown of its prerogatives 5 further 



350 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

no judgment in favour of Sir George Makgill could be 
enforced, as it would be an order upon the Crown. To this 
high doctrine Lord Reading did not assent, saying that the 
remedy was open to a private individual if there had been 
a usurpation of an office of a public nature. In regard to 
the other objection, he disagreed that a judgment of ouster, 
pronounced by the Court would be an order on the King. 
In any case, " This," he said, " is the King's Court ; we sit 
here to administer justice and to interpret the law of the 
realm in the King's name. It is respectful and proper to 
assume that once the law is declared by a competent judicial 
authority it will be followed by the Crown." 

The preliminary objection having fallen to the ground, 
the main issue was argued. But the case for the defence 
was argued only on behalf of Sir Ernest Cassel; for Mr 
Roskill, K.C., who appeared for Sir Edgar Speyer, 
announced that Speyer was not willing to have the case 
argued, as he had offered to resign membership of the Privy 
Council and felt that it would be inconsistent to assert a 
claim to an honour which he had offered to resign. Sir 
Ernest Cassel was represented by Sir Robert Finlay, K.C., 
who led Mr Leslie Scott, K.C., and Mr Henry McCardie, 
while Mr Powell, K.C., appeared for Sir George Makgill. 
Mr Powell's case briefly was that, although the British 
Nationality and Status of Aliens Act of 1914 enacted that 
naturalised persons " subject to the provisions of this Act. 
be entitled to all political and other rights, powers and 
privileges and . . . have to all intents and purposes the status 
of a natural-born British subject," another paragraph of 
the Act said that " Section III of the Act of Settlement 
(which disqualifies naturalised aliens from holding certain 
offices) shall have effect as if the words " naturalised or " 
were omitted therefrom." Now, in Mr PowelPs contention 
if that section of the Act of Settlement, which has already 
been quoted, is read with the omission of the words in 
question, it means that the disabilities against alien-borns 
are maintained. The counsel for Sir Ernest Cassel put 
forward the view that, as the Act of 1914 was intended to 



WARTIME LORD CHIEF JUSTICE 351 

improve the position of naturalised persons, it could hardly 
have been the intention of its framers to revive their dis 
abilities and to undo the effects of all the intervening legis 
lation by a chance paragraph. Lord Reading, in giving 
judgment, reviewed the legislation on the subject of aliens 
and found for Speyer and Cassel. The Act of 1870 had 
repealed the Act of 1844, and "the two limitations pre 
served by the repealed Act of 1844 (i.e., the disqualification 
from being a member of Parliament or the Privy Council) 
disappeared in the Act of 1870, and the language of this Act 
is inconsistent with their continued existence. Therefore," 
he continued, " the conclusion is irresistible that the statute 
of 1870 by implication repealed such of the limitations 
originally imposed by the Act of Settlement as were pre 
served by the Act of 1844. Therefore, the respondents, 
having been naturalised under the Act of 1870 were capable 
of being Privy Councillors when they were respectively 
appointed." But Mr PowelPs argument had been that, 
whatever their position before it, they had ceased to be 
capable of being Privy Councillors after the Act of 1914. 
Here again Lord Reading did not agree: "This statute," 
he observed, "repealed the Act of 1870, and, it is to be 
observed, does not re-enact the one qualification in the Act 
of 1870 as to the status of a naturalised subject. The Act 
of 1914 was intended to extend and not to curtail the rights 
o naturalised subjects and aliens ... It is to my mind obvious 
that these words were inserted because of the powers given 
to the Secretary of State to revoke a certificate. In any 
event I think section 38, sub-section 2, of the Interpretations 
Act, 1889, (which says that where an Act repeals an existing 
enactment, it shall not, unless a contrary intention appears, 
revise anything not in force at the time of repeal, or affect 
the rights and privileges accruing under the Act, which is 
repealed) is fatal to Mr PowelPs argument." 

The other two judges were of the same opinion, and so the 
judgment for Speyer and Cassel was unanimous; the judg 
ment for Speyer was appealed against, but the decision was 
affirmed by the Court of Appeal in July, 1916. The story, 



352 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

however, does not end altogether happily. Sir Ernest 
Cassel made no attempt to retain his previous position, but 
retired with dignity to Bournemouth, where he lived in 
virtual seclusion until the end; a man of fundamentally 
simple tastes despite his lavish entertainment of others 
and little interest in the arts, he developed an unexciting 
routine, which terminated only with death. Sir Edgar 
Speyer's story is even sadder. He left England and went 
to America, where, perhaps maddened by what he ^ felt to 
be the injustice of the treatment which he had received or 
perhaps responding to the call of race, he became strongly 
pro-German. In consequence his certificate of naturalisation 
was revoked in 1921 by the Committee, statutorily set up, 
which considered his case in secret j and so Sir Edgar Speyer 
concluded his life, no longer an Englishman even in name. 
It is impossible not to feel sympathy for the two men, who, 
like Timon of Athens, must have felt that there were many 
to applaud them in prosperity, but few to console them in 
adversity. But they had built in great measure on the 
foundation of the approval of the least stable element in 
the community 5 and he who builds on sand must fear the 
tempest. 

The sadness of their story, however, is eclipsed by the 
great tragedy of one who was a citizen of the Empire by 
birth and honoured in his service to it, but was seduced by 
his own idealism into committing the greatest and most 
dramatic of war-time treasons. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

TREASON AND DEATH OF ROGER CASEMENT 

IN the Times of Saturday, April 22nd, 1916, there 
appeared a small paragraph under the heading: " Arms 
in a Boat: Reported Discovery on the Irish Coast." 
It ran: 

" News reached Tralee last night that a collapsible boat 
containing a large quantity of arms and ammunition was 
seized about 4 o'clock yesterday morning at Currahane 
Strand by the Ardf ert police. 

" A stranger of unknown nationality was arrested in the 
vicinity, and is detained in custody. Where the boat came 
from or for whom the arms were intended is at present 
unknown." 

This bald statement was the first intimation that the 
strangest episode of the War had reached its denouement - y 
it was soon to conclude in the greatest treason trial in the 
history of the country. The scene changes swiftly from 
the remote, desolate Irish coast to the unpretentious court 
at Bow Street, where so many strange tales have been 
unfolded j but it may fairly be doubted whether any drama 
of the Courts has been as thrilling, or has been, played on 
so vast a stage, as that in which Sir Roger Casement 
appeared before Lord Reading to answer the gravest charge 
known to our Criminal Law. 

When Sir Roger Casement retired from the consular 
service in 1912, at the age of forty-eight, he had a record 
of peculiar distinction, which had won him a pension not, 
it is true, a very substantial one and the honours of 
knighthood and the C.M.G. Nor were his services of the 
conventional, rather plodding order, which so often win 
similar honours for public servants. It could not be said of 
Roger Casement that he had been honoured merely because 

353 



354 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

he had avoided making mistakes 5 the quality of his services 
had been of no such negative order. On the contrary his 
honours were bestowed for actions which scarcely needed the 
mark of official approval to win for them the applause not 
only of this country, but of civilised and humane people the 
world over. For it was Roger Casement who by his tireless 
investigations and intrepid energy had exposed ftfst in the 
Congo, and then in the Putumayo, the abominations to which 
natives were exposed in the exploitation of natural resources. 
The horror caused by his revelations was intense, and his 
name became something to be reckoned with in the Chancel 
leries of Europe, and an object of veneration in the houses 
of the people ; for gratitude is always felt for those who 
arouse the national conscience by the exposure of conditions 
which are sufficiently remote. And so Casement in 1912 
was know r n as a loyal and devoted servant of the British 
Empire j but he was recognised above all as a servant of 
humanity who by his own fearless enthusiasm in investigat 
ing in the swamps of Central Africa and South America had 
placed a moral compulsion on the nations to come to the aid 
of those least able to help themselves. 

The task had only been accomplished at a price. At the 
age of forty-eight he was retired, with a small pension and no 
prospects. His health was shattered, and a lifetime spent in 
strange and often barbarous places had given him no 
niche in society , circumstances, and his own shyness, had 
prevented him, in spite of his gift of quick sympathy and 
his romanticism, from gathering many friends. He was 
lonely, unmarried, poor, broken in health; what could the 
future hold for him? But he was an idealist, a romanticist, 
a quixotic knight-errant, who had spent the best years of his 
life in the service of poor, ill-treated creatures, who can 
hardly have known that he was come to help them 5 and it 
is the nature of such men to conjure up from the depths of 
drabness adventures undreamed of and unapproved by their 
more sedate and level-headed fellow-beings. And it was 
to Ireland that he returned. Ireland, always the happy 
hunting-ground of unpractical politicians. And Casement 



TREASON OF ROGER CASEMENT 355 

at forty-eight, with no political experience, was the very 
type and symbol of the romantic theorist in politics 3 but he 
had to pay for his theories and his inexperience more dearly 
than is the rule with politicians. 

Casement was rather unexpectedly an Ulsterman and 
a Protestant (although his mother had been born a Catholic). 
But his sympathies had always been with the aspirations of 
Irish nationalism, and on a previous visit to Ireland nothing 
had given him more pleasure than the company of the young 
zealots for Irish independence. 

By 1912, however, the scene was changed. Redmond 
was using the Irish vote, which since the elections of 1910 
held the balance between the English parties, to try and 
force Asquith to put Home Rule on the Statute Book. This, 
according to opinion at the time, would have meant the 
compulsory inclusion of Ulster in a unit, to the creation of 
which it was implacably opposed ; and this the Orangemen 
and English Unionists like Carson and F. E. Smith were 
determined to resist with all their strength. Ireland had 
virtually become two hostile camps, and Casement, though 
an Ulsterman, threw himself from the first with enthusiasm 
on to the Fenian side. His reputation, his talents, his energy 
and his time were henceforth devoted to the cause of Irish 
independence. He gave, in fact, all he had, with a selfless 
devotion characteristic of him; but he could never be a great 
revolutionary leader. However, as Shaw said subsequently, 
" a nation which could not produce a Garibaldi had to be 
content with Casements." 

Casement himself would not have made the comparison 
with Garibaldi. He was shy in manner, fumbling as an 
orator, unused to public life; nor was he one of those 
hysterical patriots whose exhibitions makes them rehearse 
their speeches in the dock, long before there is any question 
of their being put into a position to make them. He was, 
in fact, without the obvious qualities of leadership, and had 
only some of the elements of martyrdom. And so, when 
young enthusiasts suggested that he should place himself in 
a position of leadership, he gently discountenanced their 



356 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

project; was he not old in years and young in experience of 
the affairs they would have him lead? But that they 
should look to him could surprise nobody - 7 for it was the 
involuntary tribute paid to that selfless enthusiasm and 
singleness of purpose which he had displayed in the Congo 
and the Putumayo, and which he had now transferred to 
the service, as he thought, of his native land. 

But in his very qualities was the measure of his inadequacy 
for the new sphere into which he had plunged his energies 5 
for singleness of vision, which may serve the cause of 
humanity when directed towards the exposure of cruelties, 
which have only to be known to be abhorred, is at best a 
doubtful guide through the subtler problems of national 
relationships. But it has been the misfortune of Ireland 
to exact too strong a devotion from her sons, a romantic, 
fierce devotion which forbids compromise and the humdrum 
arrangements which are the core of political wisdom 5 they 
would serve her better perhaps, if they loved her less. Some 
no doubt would say that this is as true of Carson as of 
Casement , for Carson, a Southern Irishman of Italian 
extraction, felt the same blind, absorbed devotion to the 
cause of Ulster as Casement, Protestant and Ulsterman, 
gave to the cause of Irish nationalism. Carson, when he 
became a Unionist, ceased to be a Constitutionalist 3 for he 
became willing to put the attainment of one single issue 
above the maintenance in all its integrity of that Constitution 
which ordinarily has first claim upon the Conservative. And 
Casement, in his zeal for national independence, forgot that 
even Mazzini would allow the claim to nationhood only 
when a whole community felt itself to be a nation; and 
Ulster had no such feeling. Ireland, therefore, would 
perhaps have been better and happier without its Carsons 
and its Casements. But History would have been the poorer 
and the roll of high-minded idealists the shorter, for their 
absence. 

It was to a great extent Carson who formed Casement's 
opinions on practical questions in Ireland. It was Carson's 
organisation of the Ulster volunteers which convinced him 



TREASON OF ROGER CASEMENT 357 

of the necessity of raising the Irish volunteers to offset them, 
and Casement's gun-running at Howth was preceded and 
provoked by the Ulster gun-running at Larne. He himself 
realised that Carson had put the Irish question on a new 
footing, and he was glad of it; what was the good of placing 
your reliance, as Redmond did, on the Home Rule Bill when 
your opponents openly appealed to the sterner arbitrament 
of the sword? Casement's method of showing his awareness 
of his debt to Carson in this respect is typical of his lack 
of political flair. The method was the simple one of calling 
for three cheers for Carson at the conclusion of the meeting 
held to launch the Irish Volunteer movement at Cork; the 
result of this unexpected request was not unnaturally to 
rouse the audience to a pitch of fury, which found practical 
expression in the hurling of all available furniture at Case 
ment and Professor McNeill, who retired in confusion and 
academic astonishment at this evidence of lack of perception 
on the part of the masses. In thus expecting an excited 
political gathering at once to realise the subtle reason for 
calling for three cheers for an implacable and detested 
opponent, Casement showed the child-like impracticability 
which we see again in his 'suggestion to Redmond that 
General Kelly-Kenny, who had lost the use of both legs, 
was the right man as General to rally the enthusiasm of the 
Irish Volunteers. 

But his impulsiveness and his enthusiasm had a more 
romantic and attractive side, as, for instance, when he wrote 
early in 1914: 

^ " Pve a good mind to write to Carson to-night, and ask 
him to come to Cork with me! 

" My God I wonder what would happen if he said 
c Yes. J Would you all rise to the occasion or would you 
tear us limb from limb? What you say about him being 
King of Ireland Pve said it too if he would only rise 
to the height of a supreme occasion. He could save Ireland 
and make Ireland. But it is a dream to think of him doing 
it if he really loved Ireland, as I do, he'd come. Shall 
I ask him? I don't know him at all, and Pve blackguarded 



358 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

him openly in the Holy of Holies (county Antrim), but 
he knows I am honest, and sincere, and fearless qualities 
he himself, I think, possesses. I like him far better than 
these craven, scheming, plotting Englishmen, whose one 
aim is to see how little freedom they can give Ireland and 
call it by another name." 

The man who wrote that letter might not be a leader 
of men in the sense in which Lenin or even Lloyd George 
is a leader of men. But he was a dreamer of dreams that 
could fascinate, chivalrous and impulsive, full of that 
dangerous attraction which rallies men to lost causes and 
leads forlorn hopes. Given that he had abilities and that 
circumstances favoured him, such a man could be a dangerous 
as he could surely be a malignant, foe to the greatest of 
nations. 

And Roger Casement, though in some matters almost a 
child, had in a wider sphere that all too rare quality of 
being able to recognise the real issues and features in any 
situation, stripped of all irrelevant considerations, and to 
prescribe for them accordingly j a quality shared, incident 
ally, in pre-eminent degree by two great figures in his trial, 
Lord Reading and the late Lord Birkenhead. His scheme 
for Ireland was in its essence quite simple. " It is not 
possible for Ireland," he wrote after his trial, "without 
effecting foreign help, to cut the connection." Ireland, in 
fact, so his argument ran, is a small country 5 England is a 
great and powerful one. Therefore, Ireland alone cannot 
exact independence from England. But the very fact that 
England is a great and powerful country is all the more 
reason why other nations should have an interest in the 
independence of Ireland, and it is in enlisting their sym 
pathy and help, or that of some of them, that Ireland's best 
hopes lie. His view is expressed in a sentence from a 
remarkable article which he wrote anonymously for the 
Irish Review shortly before the War, entitled " Ireland, 
Germany, and the Next War." " Ireland," he wrote, " is 
primarily a European island inhabitated by a European 
people who are not English, and who have for centuries 



TREASON OF ROGER CASEMENT 359 

appealed to Europe and the world to aid them in ceasing 
to be politically controlled by England." Casement was 
himself about to make one more such appeal 5 but it was to 
be no ordinary appeal, for the Power to whom he directed 
it was engaged in a struggle with Great Britain, which by 
its very magnitude had swept aside domestic friction and 
had caught up Ulstermen and Southerners alike into the 
common ranks of resistance. 

The War had been expected by Casement; in the article 
referred to, he had suggested that German government in 
Ireland would be better than British, even if Germany did 
not as he believed it almost inevitably would give Ire 
land her independence. But he did not expect it until 1915. 
And so it was to the United States that he sailed in the 
summer of 1914, partly to establish contact with the Irish- 
American Fenians and partly to gain the ear of Bernstorff, 
the German ^ Ambassador in the United States, for his 
schemes of Irish-German co-operation. 

Thus it was that Casement was on neutral soil on the 
outbreak of War. As he was to say later, "it upset my 
calculations no less than Mr BirrelPs." A few more months 
of agitation in Ireland, perhaps the beginnings of civil 
conflict, and who could tell whether Irish loyalty to the 
Empire would stand the strain? Casement, at any rate, 
thought not. But that bullet at Sarajevo and that scrap of 
paper had shown no respect to the nice calculations he had 
made. Great Britain and Germany were at war in August, 
1914, and he, powerless in a foreign land, could only sliare 
with the detested House of Commons a breathless specu 
lation as to what Redmond would say; would Ireland place 
the sword, which she had been ready to unsheath to extort 
her independence, at the service of those from whom she 
had claimed it? Or would Ireland have no blood to give 
to any land, to any cause but that of Ireland? They had 
not long to wait, and Redmond's words showed that Case 
ment was in a sad minority j the cause of the Empire, it was 
decided, was the cause of Ireland, and Redmond promised 
" that the democracy of Ireland will turn with the utmost 



360 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

anxiety and sympathy to this country in every trial, and 
every danger that may overtake it." From this time Case 
ment played a lone hand 5 he continued to serve what he 
conceived to be the interests of Ireland, but he served them 
under no authority but his own. 

To Casement, the War must have seemed a bitter mockery 
of ..all his hopes, his efforts and his faith. He had wished 
Ireland to take arms for independence $ and Ireland was in 
arms, as he believed, for the continuance of servitude. He 
had tried to persuade Ireland to look upon Germany as an 
ally against England 3 and at Mons, the Munsters, the 
Inniskillings, the Irish Guards and many more were, side 
by side with the English forces, helping to stem the flood 
of German invasion, irrupting into Belgium. Belgium! 
They had actually gone to war for the sake of Belgium, his 
old foes in the days of the Congo. 

But if all the world had changed and played him false, 
he would remain constant to his ideas and his beliefs; he 
would continue to fight for the nationhood and independence 
of Ireland by the methods which he had advocated. He 
came to his decision with little or no serious thought on the 
difficulties and drawbacks of his expedition 5 he held no 
mandate save his own impulse, and no passport save Bern- 
storfPs recommendation and his own enthusiasm. He was 
going, this strange man, weary a little but full of hope, with 
that childish, courageous impetuosity, which was peculiarly 
his own. And so, while Redmond recruited for the British 
Army, and Irish soldiers struggled on at Mons, Sir Roger 
Casement, knighted and broken in the service of the British 
Empire, started out, escorted by a Norwegian sailor as 
servant and armed with an American passport, on that 
strange mission, which was aimed to bring destruction on 
the British Empire, but led him to his own. 

It was impossible for him to go to Germany direct, and 
so he was travelling on a Norwegian ship, the Oskar II. 
But the voyage was not uneventful, for the ship was detained 
for search by H.M.S. Hibernian, one of the " eight battle 
ships or cruisers out looking for us," as Casement said. It 



TREASON OF ROGER CASEMENT 361 

was six Germans, however, whom the British ship took as 
prisoners, and the tall "American" and his Norwegian 
Bryant were allowed to continue their journey unobstructed. 
This escape allowed Casement to get safely to Norway, but it 
was by no means the end of his adventures, for the British 
Legation seized on his servant, Adler Christiansen, and after 
subjecting him to inquiries about his master, informed him, 
m his own words, that " if someone knocked him on the 
head they would get well paid for it." 

The events of the next few days read like an extract from 
a spy story. Casement was watched by detectives, who 
were anxious to secure him for the British Legation before 
he could get^the German Legation to obtain his permission 
to go to Berlin. He sent Christiansen post haste, therefore, 
to the German Legation, urging him at all costs to evade 
the embarrassing attentions of the British Legation's detec 
tives. This he succeeded in doing, and arrived by circuitous 
route at the German Legation, where he was rewarded by 
an appointment for Casement for seven o'clock. Once again, 
however, the problem was to shake off the pursuing detec 
tives. But Casement was resourceful, and managed to slip 
out of his taxi as it was rounding a corner, leaving 
Christiansen to continue the journey alone as a decoy. 

At the German Consulate, Casement was told that they 
had telegraphed to . the Foreign Office and must await 
instructions. He returned to his hotel, where his spirits 
were not raised by the gloomy accounts and prophecies of 
Christiansen, who seems to have shared the fat boy's pre 
dilection for " making his flesh creep." That night, however, 
he received a message from the German Legation telling 
him to wait in his hotel, till permission came to him to go 
to Berlin 5 he had not slept when it arrived at 'about seven 
o'clock next morning. 

It might have been expected that he could now proceed 
quietly to Germany, but Norway had more thrills to provide. 
For that morning Christiansen was taken again to the 
British Legation, where he was offered a rewar^. to co-operate 
against Casement. Casement's indignation was unbounded, 



362 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

and he hatched a counterplot by which Christiansen was to 
pretend to the British Minister that he had succumbed to 
the temptation of the reward, and would travel with Case 
ment to Germany in order to keep the Minister posted in 
his movements and activities with a view to his capture. 
In view of the young man's character, Casement's plot 
showed that naiVete of mind which was so strong in him. 
But the arrangement was concluded, and the strange pair 
accompanied now by a German, Richard Meyer set off 
on the last stage of their precarious journey. 

In Germany they were frankly puzzled by Sir Roger 
Casement.. What sort of a man was it who came over, old 
in the service of the British Empire and unable to speak 
a word of German, with this strange offer of seducing the 
loyalty of Irish prisoners of war? Was he a spy? Or a 
madman? Or could perhaps his plan offer some hope of 
success? After all, feeling in Ireland had been roused to a 
fever heat only a few months before, and it was not perhaps 
too much to hope that Casement's state of mind was repre 
sentative of that of his countrymen. " An active cause " 
Casement had asked for j that meant a declaration of German 
sympathy with Irish national aspirations. " Given that, I 
had little or no doubt " wrote Casement, " that scores, 
perhaps hundreds, of the Irish prisoners would follow me." 
At any rate, the German Government decided that the 
prospects were sufficiently good to warrant them taking up 
the idea. And the prospects of success must have been 
remote indeed for them to have left untried a project which, 
if successful, promised so rich a reward. For if all went 
well, and German troops and an Irish Brigade landed in 
Ireland and met with a friendly reception, what could not 
be hoped from this blow in Britain's most vulnerable spot, 
shaking her and challenging her in the very heart of the 
Empire? 

Consequently a statement was issued authorised by the 
Imperial Chancellor giving a " categoric assurance that the 
German Government desires only the welfare of the Irish 
people, their country, and their institutions . . . their national 



TREASON OF ROGER CASEMENT 363 

prosperity and national freedom." This was followed up 
by the collection of all the Irish prisoners of war in Germany 
preparatory to despatching them to the special camp at Lim- 
burg, where Casement was to recruit them for the Irish 
Brigade. 

What were his chances of success? One thing is plain 5 
he had not to deal with Fenians or politically-minded Irish 
separatists. On the contrary, the men who were prisoners 
in those early months were for the most part professional 
soldiers or reservists, men who had gone to France with 
the first Expeditionary Force in August, men who had 
sustained that first great shock at Mons, and had helped 
by their valour to stiffen the resistance of the whole country 
to the might of the Central Powers. These were not men 
whose allegiance was lightly given, or could be lightly 
revoked j they were "Romans that have spoke the word, 
and will not palter." It is true that the reward for the 
blood and the dirt, the valour and the steadiness of Mons 
was the slaughter of comrades, the long retreat, and now the 
barbarity, the discomfort, and the hopelessness of a prison 
camp. But these were not things to conciliate 5 they could 
only either crush or nerve the sinews of a splendid loyalty, 
If Casement came among them he would find the pride of 
tradition and allegiance and the reluctance of brave men to 
accept favours of the enemy a strong answer even to the 
hopes of quitting the living death of a prison camp. 

An augury as to which way the struggle would be decided 
was not long in appearing. On December ist a communica 
tion was received by the prison authorities at Sennelager; 
it was signed by Irish non-commissioned officers, who 
desired that it should be forwarded to the Kaiser. It ran: 

SIR, 

On behalf of the Irish Catholics now prisoners of war in the 
camp under your command, we, the undersigned, desire to 
testify to His Majesty the German Emperor our thanks for 
his consideration of our situation. 

We fully appreciate the kindness extended in (1) grouping 
us together under one roof; (2) assuring us of better food; 



364 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

(3) decreasing the amount of fatigue work to be performed ; 
but we regret we must beseech His Imperial Majesty to with 
draw these concessions unless they are shared by the remainder 
of the prisoners, as, in addition to being Irish Catholics, we 
have the honour to be British soldiers. 

Thanking you in anticipation of this appeal reaching His 
Majesty the Emperor through the German authorities, 

We are, Sir, 

Yours respectfully, 
etc. 

The letter is a model of firmness united to dignity and 
restraint, and its very absence of heroics must have impressed 
on Casement the character of the men with whom he had 
to deal and the difficulty of his task; at the same time it 
must have shown him how well worth winning they were, 
could he but succeed. Consequently it was after considerable 
preparation, and not without anxiety and trepidation, that 
Casement went to open his campaign amongst the prisoners 
at Limburg not indeed those who had written the memorial 
to the Kaiser, for they had not arrived, but others who were 
already there and whose spirit might be gauged from that 
of their comrades. 

The interest in the camp had been considerable at the 
announcement of the address by a " distinguished Irish 
gentleman; " and indeed what announcement could fail to 
provoke excited comment in the cramped, monotonous 
routine of prison life? But it was only the sergeants and 
corporals who were summoned to attend and who gazed 
with curiousity on the tall, black-bearded man with his far 
away, romantic air, looking so little like a politician. Nor 
was his oratory that of the practised politician; his sincerity 
was patent, but his speech was halting and his manner ner 
vous. But the gist of what he had to say was obvious; he 
was pro-German, he was trying to persuade them that 
Germany was engaged in a war of self-defence and that they, 
as Irishmen, had no duty towards England and could freely 
accept the co-operation of Germany. 

The pamphlets which he distributed and the proclamation, 



TREASON OF ROGER CASEMENT 365 

which was posted in the Camp, made his meaning clear 
beyond all doubt. The proclamation announced the forma 
tion of an Irish Brigade, which was to be clothed, fed, and 
armed by the German Government, with a view to securing 
Irish independence of Great Britain. The Brigade were to 
wear a special Irish uniform and were to be the guests of 
the German Government, which guaranteed in addition at 
the end of the War to send to America such members of the 
Brigade as wished to go. 

The offer was plain. The " distinguished Irish gentle 
man " seemed to be sincere in his affection of Ireland. But 
he was clearly a traitor perhaps in the pay of the German 
Government who was trying to tempt them by release, by 
the hospitality of the German Government, by specious 
words, to betray their allegiance, to be false to their King 
and the causes for which they had taken up arms. When 
this was realised in the camp, feeling hardened against the 
man, who spoke to them in their own language, but came 
under German escort to tempt them in the duress of 
captivity. One or two had announced their intention of 
joining the Brigade, but the treatment which they received 
from the majority was not of a kind to encourage imitators, 
and the adherents of the " bloody Fenian," as Casement was 
irreverently termed, were met with a strong counter- 
propaganda. Casement had produced no effect save that of 
irritation, and from his first entry into the camp the shadow 
of failure had never lifted from his enterprise. 

He concluded, nevertheless, his " treaty " with Zimmer- 
mann, the German Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. 
Its main provisions, besides the promise of arms and equip 
ment were that " the object of the Irish Brigade shall be to 
fight solely the cause of Ireland, and under no circumstances 
shall it be employed or directed to any German end " ; and 
Article 6, which ran: " In the event of a German naval 
victory affording the means of reaching the coast of Ireland, 
the Imperial German Government pledges itself to dispatch 
the Irish Brigade and a supporting force of German officers 
and men in German transports with the necessary naval 



366 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

protection to effect a landing on the Irish coast." Article 7 
went on to provide that, if the German navy should be 
unable to open a sea-route to Ireland, the Irish Brigade 
should be used as Casement should approve j e.g. " in this 
event it might be possible to employ the Irish Brigade in 
Egypt to help the Egyptian people to recover their freedom 
by driving the British out of Egypt." The provisions of 
this treaty have a great importance in view of the defence 
raised subsequently at the trial. 

With this arrangement made, Casement returned to Lim- 
burg to recruit forces to enable him to put the project into 
operation. But by this time apathy and curiosity had both 
succumbed to hostility, for his mission was understood now, 
and his appeal was interrupted by shouts and booing. One 
man actually tried to strike him; this was prevented, but 
Casement was put to it to keep the prisoners at bay. The 
men, whom he had hoped to enlist and to lead in the service 
of his cherished idea, were actually driving him from the 
camp. He bowed to the inevitable, and retired. For a few 
more days he pottered round the camp, a melancholy, 
drooping figure, broken, hopeless, and disillusioned 5 and 
then he returned to Berlin. Casement had failed; not thus 
are men rallied to desperate causes. 

To the sadness of failure was soon added the knowledge 
that he was suspected and unwanted. He busied himself 
with his vendetta against the British Minister in Norway ; 
and could never understand that to the Germans, or indeed 
to any detached and rational person, it seemed the most 
natural thing in the world that a British Minister would do 
all in his power to stop the passage of a British subject into 
enemy country, where he was avowedly going with treason 
able intentions. Nor could he understand that to the 
Germans the scruples, which prevented him from carrying 
out such practical employment as was suggested, must appear 
evidence of lack of sincerity j they began to say he was a spy 
or a madman. There were not wanting whispers either, 
swelling at times to something more than whispers, that he 
was something else besides j for his servant, who had taken 



TREASON OF ROGER CASEMENT 367 

to a most ostentatious style of dress and to painting his face, 
was soon well known to the Berlin police. And what could 
a respectable man want with such a servant? 

In face of such rumours and distresses, Casement with 
drew for a time to Munich j but as month after month passed 
by and no end to the War came in sight, he knew that fresh 
effort would be expected on his part. So he returned to 
Limburg, reinforced this time by Father Nicholson, an 
American Catholic, and an enthusiastic Fenian. But the 
prisoners resented a political padre and would have none of 
him, while their animus against Casement had grown all the 
greater because they suspected that the reduction of their 
rations was due to him. So there was nothing for it but to 
take the fifty or so men who had enlisted in the Irish 
Brigade back to Berlin. Fifty men, jeered at and hissed as 
they left the camp by about 2500 who remained loyal; such 
was the sum of Casement's success and the measure of his 
failure. 

They returned, however, in May, the Irish Brigaders 
wearing their new Irish uniforms, and once again set them 
selves to the task of propaganda. But by this time the 
feeling against the traitors was intense, and found frequent 
expression in booing and attempts at rough treatment, which 
could hardly be restrained. It was obvious that no more 
recruits could be expected, and yet what was the good of 
fifty? They were too small to constitute a fighting force, 
and yet when they were left amongst the prisoners even 
non-British ones their especially favourable treatment was 
a constant provocation to the others. So they were trans 
ferred to Zossen, and an ex-soldier called Monteith arrived 
to drill them, in order to fit them for active service in 
Ireland should the occasion arise. But to Casement it must 
have seemed that the chance would never come, and he had 
even entered into negotiations for the transfer of the fifty 
men for service in Syria, when suddenly news came that 
revolutionised the situation. The great Irish rising of 1916 
was timed to break out on Easter Sunday j surely here was 
the chance at last? Casement was galvanised into activity, 



368 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

and the slow tempo of events quickened into breathless 
action. 

The scene changes to the windswept Kerry coast near 
Tralee Bay, on whose inhospitable shores a few Irish peasants 
and fisher folk lived simple lives, scarce affected by the giant 
conflict which filled all Europe, One of these simple folk, 
a farmer called John McCarthy, rose early at two o'clock on 
that Good Friday morning to say his prayers at the holy 
well, and as he returned along the deserted shore after his 
pious errand, he was astonished to find a boat. He tried to 
move it, but it was too heavy, and so he sent his little boy 
to get his neighbour, Pat Driscoll, to help him to move it. 
Pat came and together they moved the boat as much as they 
could. And then McCarthy found a dagger in the boat, and 
traced the footprints of three men, going some twenty or 
thirty yards in the direction of his house. On returning to 
the boat, he found his little daughter, aged eight, playing 
with some revolvers. These also he took possession of, and 
carried all his findings to the police station at Ardfert. This 
was the discovery of arms reported in the Times, and "the 
stranger of unknown nationality " was Sir Roger Casement. 

At about 4.30 that same morning a servant girl, Mary 
Gorman, saw three strangers, one a tall, black-bearded man. 
She gave them only the amount of attention that strangers 
always provoke in quiet places, and resumed her work. But 
the men were already proving of more interest to Sergeant 
Hearn, chief constable at Ardfert, who had by now received 
the information of McCarthy's strange discovery. Could it 
be that the Kerry coast was the chosen spot for a descent on 
Ireland? Well, they should not thrust at the Empire 
through Tralee Bay, for, in the words of the Times special 
correspondent in an article on the " Coming of Casement " 
in the issue of May ist, 1916, " the sergeant, true to the fine 
tradition of the Royal Irish, promptly rose to the occasion. 
Himself and three constables constituted the garrison of 
what had become for the moment an outpost of Empire." 
The sergeant went down with McCarthy to the boat, and 
there a search revealed a handbag containing ammunition 



TREASON OF ROGER CASEMENT 369 

and some lifebelts. The gallant sergeant then returned to 
the police station and gathered reinforcements in the shape 
of Constable Riley and their carbines. 
^ They came up with their man at M'Kenna's Fort, a 
circular Irish ruin with a trench round it 5 it was now 1.20 
in the afternoon. The sergeant asked him his business, and 
the man replied by a question: " By what authority do you 
ask me the question, and am I bound to answer you? " The 
sergeant told him that he was so bound, and that if he did 
not answer, he would arrest him under the Defence of the 
Realm Regulations. The man then said that he was Richard 
Morton, of Denham, Bucks, " the author of a Life of St. 
Brendan." By a strange irony, the name was that of the 
man in whose house at Denham Casement had stayed after 
the exhaustion of the Putumayo inquiries, and it was there 
that he had received the intimation that the honour of 
knighthood was to be his. The two policemen took him to 
the police station to charge him. As he left the fort with 
them, he contrived to drop a piece of paper; it was his code. 
But the luck which had been once his had not accompanied 
him on this venture, for it was picked up by a small boy and 
given to the police, to be used as a damning piece of evidence 
against him at his trial. 

But this was not the sum of the excitement on the Kerry 
coast that day 5 nor was McCarthy the only man to make an 
interesting discovery. For on the night of Thursday, the 
2Oth, a labourer, called Hussey, sighted a red light flashing 
out at sea. Next day at about six in the evening H.M.S. 
Bluebell was patrolling off the coast for there were 
rumours of a hostile attempt when she sighted a vessel 
some ninety miles from the southern coast. The vessel was 
impeccably painted in the Norwegian colours, but the 
Bluebell was suspicious and signalled her. The answer 
came back that she was bound for Genoa from Bergen, but 
this failed to satisfy the Bluebell, and the captain signalled 
that the Aud for this was the name which the Norwegian 
vessel gave must follow the Bluebell to harbour. The 
Bluebell accordingly moved off ahead, but the Aud remained 



370 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

motionless, until a shot was fired across her bows. This 
decided her to follow quietly, and all night the Bluebell 
steamed south-east in the direction of Queenstown, closely 
attended by the now amenable Aud. Next morning, how 
ever, her docility was seen to have been assumed for a 
purpose. For, to continue the story in Lord Reading's 
words when summing-up in the trial, u when she was within 
three and a half miles of Queenstown she seemed to stop her 
engines, and then a cloud of white smoke appeared ; two 
boats were lowered 5 flags of truce were carried in these boats 5 
in these boats were twenty German bluejackets and three 
officers, two of them being identified as German naval 
officers j and they were taken on board the Bluebell as 
prisoners of war. Within a very few minutes, some ten 
minutes, of the cloud of white smoke being seen, the Aud 
blows up." Not thus easily, however, were the British to 
be baffled. Divers were sent down, and Dempsey said that 
he found " rifles and thousands of other cartridges there." 

There was no doubt now that a German attempt to land 
arms and ammunition in Ireland had been narrowly foiled. 
And when on the Sunday the Dublin insurrection broke out, 
the significance of events became clear. If the attempt had 
succeeded on a bigger scale and had linked up with the 
insurrection, the issue might have been one of incalculable 
danger to the Empire and terror to loyal subjects in Ireland 5 
it would in fact have been the consummation of that project 
for which Casement had schemed so long and so ardently. 
But he himself was a prisoner under arrest, making the last 
journey from Tralee to London. On the way they told 
him that a motor car containing two young Sinn Feiners had 
taken the wrong turning and plunged into Lake Curragh, 
where the two men had been drowned. Casement, suppos 
ing no doubt that they were Menteith and Bailey, burst into 
tears and, still sobbing, said: " I am very sorry about those 
two lads. It was on my account they came. They were two 
good Irishmen. I know that water well." And then he 
seemed to grow more cheerful, and asked his escort: "Do 
you think I shall get a bed? " He had not had a night's 



TREASON OF ROGER CASEMENT 371 

sleep for twelve nights. He was to sleep soon in the Tower 
of London, where so many romantics and so many traitors 
had lodged before him. 

From the Tower Casement was taken to Bow Street 
Police Station to be charged with Bailey. Pointing to Bailey 
he said: " That man is innocent. I think the indictment is 
wrongly drawn against him. Is it within my power to pro 
vide defence for this man? I wish him in every way to be 
as well defended as myself, and if he has no means to obtain 
his defence I am prepared to obtain it for him." Casement 
showed that loyalty and consideration for his confederates 
which in his life was all too seldom returned. 

The magisterial proceedings were held at Bow Street on 
May _i5th, i6th, i7th, and on the iyth Casement was 
committed for trial. On the 25th the indictment was pre 
sented to the Grand Jury, who found a true bill against him. 
It is interesting to note that it was the first indictment for 
treason drawn up according to the formula prescribed by 
the Indictments Act of 1915. Formerly indictments for 
treason always used to contain a reference to the seduction 
of the traitor by the devil, but with the passing of that 
worthy from contemporary thought, if not altogether from 
contemporary conversation, the reference was no doubt 
thought to be unnecessary. 

The trial of Roger Casement for high treason is remark 
able in many ways. It is remarkable not only because it was 
the climax of a strange and thrilling adventure, not only 
because in the trial itself drama and deep technical argument 
were so adroitly intermixed, not only because of the com 
pelling interest of the personalities involved. It is remark 
able for a reason prior to all these 5 it is remarkable that 
such a trial was held at all. In June of 1916 the War 
seemed endless ; hope of immediate victory had succumbed 
in face of the dreadful reality of the "war of attrition." 
The Battle of Jutland had perhaps saved this country from 
invasion, but reports of defeat had shaken faith in our sea- 
power j in France the Germans still hurled themselves at 
Verdun, and the British prepared their great counter- 



372 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

offensive on the Somme. In the East the Russians were 
gaining ground in their tremendous June offensive; in the 
South, the Italians were pushing forward to the capture of 
Gorizia. Nearer home the savage fighting in the Dublin 
streets was still a very recent memory. It was a time of 
great endeavour and fearful sacrifice. Human life had lost 
its sanctity when Death was so insistent all around. And 
yet it was against this dark background of bloodshed, 
privation and heroic misery that for four days in the High 
Court the greatest legal luminaries of the land argued the 
question of Casement's guilt and the interpretation of the 
Statute of Treasons of 1351. History can show no finer 
example of the meaning of the rule of law in this country, 
and can adduce no greater testimony to the unswerving 
fairness of our Courts. It was indeed, in the words of 
Serjeant Sullivan, Casement's leading counsel, " a matter of 
congratulation that such a trial as this at such a time is taking 
place here in the capital city of your nation in open Court 
according to the ordinary process of law regulating the lives 
of the civil subjects of His Majesty." 

Casement was charged under the Statute of Treasons, 
1351, with " adhering to the King's enemies elsewhere than 
in the King's realm, to wit in the Empire of Germany. " 
For a conviction of treason in this country, the prosecution 
must prove at least one overt act, testified to by two 
witnesses, or two overt acts of the same treason, testified to 
by one witness each. Against Casement six overt acts were 
charged, the first five of which related to the Irish Brigade 
incident, while the sixth was that of the landing in Ireland 
of April 2 1 st. There was a time when a man thus charged 
with the gravest of crimes had to rely solely on his native 
wit for his defence j but the Treason Act of 1695 inaugurated 
a more merciful state of affairs by directing that the accused 
should not only have a copy of the indictment and a list of 
the jurors, but that two counsel should be assigned to him 
in addition. Thus Casement had the benefit of expert 
defence in the persons of Serjeant Sullivan, of the Irish Bar, 
Mr (now Sir Thomas) Artemus Jones, and Professor J. H. 



TREASON OF ROGER CASEMENT 373 

Morgan, the expert on constitutional law: it would appear 
from this that Casement had three counsel instead of the 
statutory two, but Professor Morgan addressed the Court in 
the status of what is known as " amicus curiae," thereby 
complying with the Act. At all events, Casement was 
defended by a very strong team, and that in such a charge 
is only as it should be. But at the time, not unnaturally 
perhaps, in view of the stress and agony which people were 
living through in those terrible days, there was a feeling that 
too much consideration was being given to Casement. This 
feeling was referred to by Lord Reading in his summing-up, 
when he took occasion to put the matter in its true light: 
" There are some persons," he said, " who, perhaps a little 
thoughtlessly, are inclined to rebel against the notion that a 
member of the English Bar, or members of it, should be 
found ^tp defend a prisoner on a charge of treason against 
the British State. I need not tell you, I am sure, gentlemen, 
that if anyone has those thoughts in his mind he has but a 
poor conception of the high obligation and responsibility of 
the Bar of England. It is the proud privilege of the Bar of 
England that it is ready to come into Court and to defend 
a person accused, however grave the charge may be." 

Within the Court, when the King's Coroner read over the 
charges, was a clash of personalities of no mean order. Sir 
Roger Casement himself in the dock, tall, black-bearded, 
remote, with his romantic air of sad abstraction, as if " he 
had taken the sorrows of the world on his shoulders "; not 
the distress this of a cornered criminal, but the proud melan 
choly of great and lonely failure. What more striking con 
trast could there be to the heavily-powerful, clean-cut 
features of his accuser, once " Galloper Smith," and now Sir 
Frederick Smith, K.C., Attorney-General? It may be that 
another in his place, remembering the fierceness of his own 
partisanship, in those Irish days, would have felt his position 
at being called upon to prosecute his old opponent with that 
restraint, almost amounting to impartiality, which is tradi 
tionally associated with the Crown in criminal prosecutions 5 
but it was not in the nature of the future Lord Birkenhead, 



374 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

splendidly equipped with the arrogance arising from the 
consciousness of his intellectual mastery, to entertain doubts. 
It is not by doubting that glittering prizes are won, and the 
Attorney-General, unhampered by doubts as he was un 
moved by pity, was prepared to discharge his task with the 
superb address which was always his to command. 

On both sides was -a strong array of talent. For the 
Attorney-General had with him his Solicitor-General, Sir 
George Cave, later to succeed him as Lord Chancellor, Mr 
Archibald Bodkin, afterwards Public Prosecutor, Mr Travers 
Humphreys, and Mr Branson 5 now Judges of the High 
Court; while for Casement Mr Artemus Jones and Professor 
Morgan, who has a sharp incisiveness of manner which is 
more legal than academic, supported the bearded Irish figure 
of Serjeant Sullivan. And over them all, supported on the 
Bench by Mr Justice Avory and Mr Justice Horridge, pre 
sided the Lord Chief Justice, handsome and composed, the 
very embodiment of the cool impartiality of the Law. 

The Attorney-General's opening speech outlined the story 
of the events of Casement's honourable career in the consular 
service, his visit to Germany and attempt to form the Irish 
Brigade, and his landing in Ireland. The speech is famous 
as a masterpiece of concise and powerful exposition, and the 
effect on the jury was considerable when the Attorney sat 
down after his concluding sentences: "The prisoner, 
blinded by a hatred to this country as malignant in quality 
as it was sudden in origin, has played a desperate hazard. 
He has played it and he has lost it. To-day the forfeit is 
claimed." 

The prosecution then called its witnesses, who were for 
the most part Irish soldiers who had been prisoners of war 
at Limburg many of whom had been exchanged, thereby 
showing the opinion of the Germans as to Casement's 
chances of success, and their indifference to his fate and 
peasants from Curraghane like McCarthy and Mary 
Gorman. They were excited at being in London and in the 
centre of such great events, so far removed from the even 
tenor of their daily lives ; and the rich Irish brogue of the 



TREASON OF ROGER CASEMENT 375 

witnesses, as they answered the questions counsel put to 
them, sounded strangely in the Court. 

Their evidence was completed on the second day, and the 
case for the prosecution was concluded. The case for the 
prosecution was that Casement by his efforts to seduce the 
allegiance of the Irish prisoners at Limburg and by his 
descent on the Irish coast had committed acts of assistance 
to the King's enemies in time of war. Most of the facts 
were admitted, and substantiated with a considerable degree 
of unanimity by a number of witnesses. What defence could 
Serjeant Sullivan raise against this array of fact? 

Before Casement had pleaded Serjeant Sullivan had 
moved to quash the indictment. A motion to quash the 
indictment is brought by the defence in a criminal action, 
when it is contended that the indictment reveals no offence 
known to the law. Lord Reading had then decided, how 
ever, that it would be more convenient to take the motion 
on the conclusion of the case for the prosecution and, with 
the consent of the Attorney-General and Serjeant Sullivan, 
this was the course decided on. It was, therefore, to urge 
the quashing of the indictment, that is to say, to plead that 
the actions of his client did not constitute the offence of 
treason, that Serjeant Sullivan rose. 

There followed a long technical discussion on the correct 
interpretation of the Statute of Treasons of 1351. It may 
seem strange to some that, at a time of great stress and 
great provocation, the question of the guilt of a man, whom 
most thought to have been taken in manifest treason, should 
be decided on a Statute written in Norman French, and 
enacted over five hundred years before. But the law has 
its own methods, and it may fairly be supposed that the 
discussion and decision in the Casement trial have fixed the 
law on the point beyond dispute. 

Serjeant Sullivan's point, briefly, was that the Statute 
did not recognise as treason acts that were committed outside 
the realm. This he suggested was the reasonable inter 
pretation of the words: " If a man do levy war against our 
lord the King in his realm, or be adherent to the King's 



376 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

enemies in his realm giving them aid and comfort in the 
realm or "elsewhere." He asked the judges to read the 
Statute as if they were interpreting it for the first time, 
disregarding both the decision in the case of Colonel Lynch, 
which he suggested was based on the wrong decision in 
Vaughan's case, and also the opinions of Coke, Hale, and 
Hawkins 5 and he maintained that if the statute were read, 
as if for the first time, it would yield the meaning on which 
he relied. 

This was bold doctrine, for the opinions of men like 
Coke and Hale, who are among the most celebrated judges 
in English history, even though extra-judicial, are, if not 
binding, at any rate very strong persuasive authority. The 
Attorney-General, however, did not rely solely on persua 
sive authority to refute the Serjeant's case. He produced 
various cases, in which he claimed that the point was decided 
in his favour ; that is to say, that the statute should be read, 
" if a man do levy war against our lord the King in his 
realm or be adherent to the King's enemies in his realm 
(giving to them aid and comfort in the realm) or elsewhere." 
This reading would have the same effect as that suggested 
by Lord Reading, which was that " elsewhere " could 
govern both "adhering" and "giving aid and comfort $ " 
both that is to say, allowed the act of adhering to be either 
at home or abroad. This, as the Attorney-General pointed 
out, was historically the Common Law view and obviously 
the commonsense view, since traitorous acts were more 
likely to be committed outside the realm than within it. 

Lord Reading, in his judgment on this highly technical 
argument, brushed aside Sullivan's contention that the 
opinions of the great masters of the Common Law should 
be disregarded. " But if the words of the statute are 
not clear," he said, " and if it be possible to construe 
the statute in two different ways, then the comments 
of great lawyers, masters of the common law, during 
the last three or four centuries, cannot be allowed to 
pass by this Court without the greatest regard and 
consideration." The Statute of Henry VIII, too, was in 



TREASON OF ROGER CASEMENT 377 

agreement with these opinions, for it " shows plainly 
that the offence existed. From that time the statute has 
regulated the trial of offences committed without the realm." 
In the trial of Lynch, too, in 1903, when the same defence 
was raised, although the Court gave no judgment, the then 
Lord Chief Justice proceeded to sum up and directed the 
jury as if it was an offence. Finally there was the case of 
William Cundell, in 1802 one of the cases cited by the 
Attorney-General who was executed for adhering to the 
King's enemies outside the realm. This was an exact and 
unassailable precedent 5 what was lawful for Cundell was 
lawful for Casement. For these reasons Lord Reading 
ended his exhaustive analysis with the conclusion, which was 
supported by his brother judges, that " the offence if proved 
in fact, has been committed in law." 

The technical objection, therefore, which all three counsel 
for the defence had laboured to substantiate, had broken 
down, and Casement's best chance was gone; for now the 
case would have to be tried on the facts, and these looked 
black against him. But before the case entered on its last 
phase Casement made a statement. It turned out to be a 
categorical denial of the imputation that he had received 
German gold or secured the reduction of the rations of the 
recalcitrant Irish prisoners of war. But the words were 
spoken with a conciseness and dignity which could not fail 
to impress, as he said in his slow,, soft voice, " I trust, 
gentlemen of the jury, I have made that statement clearly 
and emphatically enough for all men, even my most bitter 
enemies, to comprehend that a man who in the newspapers 
is said to be just another Irish traitor, may be a gentleman." 

Sullivan did not propose to call witnesses, and therefore 
the last stage of the trial, that of the concluding speeches, 
had been reached. Normally, as he had not called witnesses 
nor put in documents in evidence, Sullivan would have had 
the right to the last word. But there is an old practice by 
which in cases where the Attorney-General appears he 
always has the privilege of reply a privilege which was 
waived by Sir William Jowitt is Attorney-General in 1929. 



378 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

Consequently it was Sullivan who now rose to make his 
speech for the prisoner. 

Faced with his formidable task, Serjeant Sullivan showed 
both ingenuity and courage. The defence that he proceeded 
to put forward was that Casement's propaganda at Limburg 
was only a legitimate pursual of his work for the Irish 
Volunteers before the War; he was asking the prisoners to 
join an Irish Brigade, which would have for its purpose the 
defence of Southern Ireland against the Ulster Volunteers 
when the war was over. This was clearly a very different 
thing from aiding Germany in a war against Great Britain, 
which was the substance of the charge against him. The 
evidence supported this presentment of the case in so far as 
the vast mass of it agreed that the Irish Brigade was to be 
used only in Ireland and for Ireland. Against this evidence 
was only that of one prisoner, John Neill, whom Sullivan 
had had no difficulty in shaking in cross-examination, and 
who had had to confess that he " disremembered " dates, 
numbers and other important facts. As for the charge of 
setting forth as a member of a warlike and hostile expedition, 
the ship had after all been found ninety miles from Tralee, 
and the importation of arms should in any case be treated 
only as an offence against D.O.R.A. 

The defence was plausible, for undoubtedly Ireland had 
been like an armed camp before the outbreak of war; Sir 
Roger Casement had been known to be very active in the 
organisation of the Irish Volunteers, and if he had been 
carrying on that work without reference to the War, but 
with a view only to the situation that would arise at the 
end of it, it would be impossible to convict him of treason. 
Serjeant Sullivan had stated his case with great vigour and 
eloquence until on the Wednesday afternoon the third 
day of the trial there came a dramatic interruption. He 
had been speaking of events immediately preceding the 
War, and had said "The matters that I have spoken of 
had occurred since Sir Roger Casement left the Consular 
Service." He was seen to falter, and then repeated him 
self, " As I say, those matters had occurred since Sir Roger 



TREASON OF ROGER CASEMENT 379 

Casement left the Consular Service." There was a pause, 
and the Court was conscious of that uncomfortable sensation 
which greets a hiatus- where none should be. The silence 
was broken by Serjeant Sullivan. " I regret, my lord, to 
say that I have completely broken down." He sank into 
his seat, and sat quite still, resting his head in his hands, 
while Lord Reading sympathetically announced the 
adjournment till the following day. 

The next day Mr Artemus Jones carried on for Serjeant 
Sullivan; but, before breaking down, Sullivan had made a 
courageous and eloquent defence of Irish sentiment. " Sir 
Roger Casement," he said, " was not in the service of 
England. Sir Roger Casement was in the service of the 
United Kingdom ... In Ireland you have not only a 
separate people, you have a seperate country. An Irish 
man's loyalty is to Ireland, and it would be a very sorry day 
for the Empire when loyalty to one's own native land 
should be deemed to be treason in a sister country. There is 
no English authority in Ireland ... we are your fellow 
citizens but by no means your inferiors or your slaves." It 
was a brave man who on the morrow of the Dublin insurrec 
tion could speak those words to an English jury; but 
bravery is a quality that an English jury respects. 

The weak point in Sullivan's case was that it depended 
on showing that Casement did not intend that the Irish 
Brigade should take any action until the conclusion of the 
War. But this is exactly what the evidence could not be 
made to show. The evidence proved that Casement's design 
was a landing in Ireland after a German naval victory had 
made such a landing possible ; but this, as the Attorney- 
General was quick to point out, was clearly not necessarily 
the same thing as the end of the War. And what would 
Germany's interest be in helping Ireland at the end of the 
War? " I am unaware," said the Attorney-General, " of 
anything in the history of the German nation during this 
war which would lead me to accept with enthusiasm the 
suggestion that they would be prepared to offer unlimited 
hospitality to a number of Irish soldiers in order that when 



380 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

the war was over they would be able to write a new page 
in the purely domestic history of their country." 

It is the duty of the judge in summing up to state the law 
to the jury, to point out to them the issues in the case, to 
rehearse the facts as brought out by the evidence, and to 
comment for their direction on the strength and weakness 
of the evidence that they have heard. It is a task which 
demands the analysis and exposition of an acute and pene 
trative mind ; it is a task, too, of superlative importance more 
especially in a state trial for treason, where popular pre 
judice and political passion may all too easily operate against 
the prisoner. Lord Reading, therefore, started his summing 
up by warning the jury to banish political considerations 
from their minds. " For myself," he said, " I always feel 
anxiety in a Court of Justice when there is any possibility 
of the introduction of political passion. Justice is ever in 
jeopardy when passion is aroused." The Courts of this 
country have been on the whole singularly free from this 
malignant influence; but how salutary the warning was may 
be seen from a study of the trials of less fortunate nations. 

Lord Reading then proceeded to epitomise the two points 
of view: " The defence says that Sir Roger Casement only 
asked persons, these soldiers, to become members of the 
Irish Brigade for the purpose of assisting to resist the Ulster 
Volunteers after the war had concluded . . . The Crown 
says to you that that is not the true effect; that every fact 
that you examine points to the contrary; and that what was 
intended was that at the first sea victory Irish soldiers should 
be landed, and that the Irish Brigade should then be intro 
duced into Ireland." These were the alternative interpre 
tations of Casement's actions, and the point for the jury to 
consider was: " Were the acts done such as would strengthen 
the German Emperor or such as would weaken His Majesty 
the King? " If so, he was guilty of the offence of treason; 
and it was not necessary that he should have intended his 
acts to have that effect, for it is an old legal maxim that a 
man is presumed to intend the natural consequences of his 
acts. If Casement acted in such a way as must necessarily 



TREASON OF ROGER CASEMENT 381 

redound to the advantage of Germany and to the detriment 
of the country to which he owed allegiance, then for the 
purposes of the law he had committed treason. 

And then step by step the Lord Chief Justice took the 
jury through the evidence, his calm serene voice contrasting 
effectively alike with the passionate appeal of the Serjeant 
and the heavy, tight-lipped enunciation of the Attorney- 
General. He was scrupulously fair to Casement, but under 
his impartial exposition it became increasingly clear how 
heavy was the evidence against him. The evidence was 
almost unanimous that the landing in Ireland was only to 
wait for a German naval victory j and indeed what possible 
interest could Germany have in Ireland after the War? As 
to the last charge, why had Casement arrived as he did, 
and why was he carrying the code, which he had dropped 
on his arrest? Taken in conjunction with the capture of 
the And, the case was indeed black against Casement, for 
the jury, as Lord Reading said, " will probably ask them- 
selves, was it a pure coincidence that that vessel happened 
to be there so soon after the prisoner Casement and another 
man had been seen in Ireland with all the attendant cir 
cumstances . . . which you have heard stated in evidence." 

The summing up concluded with a solemn warning to the 
jury that, if there was any reasonable doubt, it was their 
duty to find for the prisoner 5 but if not, " it is your duty 
to return a verdict to that effect, and to take no regard to 
the consequences which must follow." The jury retired at 
2.53 p.m. and at 3.50 on the afternoon of Thursday, June 
29th, Sir Roger Casement was found guilty of high treason. 
But before he was sentenced to death he had an opportunity, 
in accordance with practice, to " say for himself why the 
Court should not pass sentence and judgment upon him," 
He availed himself of this opportunity by reading a speech 
which he had prepared in anticipation of the verdict, three 
weeks previously. The speech contained a protest against 
the jurisdiction of the English Courts and the antiquity of 
the statute under which he was convicted. Neither of these 
arguments had any foundation in law, and they were fol- 



382 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

lowed by an eloquent defence of his conduct on a political 
basis. Lord Reading has been criticised for allowing this 
speech to be made; but such criticism seems to ignore both 
the humanity which would not condemn a man unheard and 
the wisdom which shows that the decisions of the law are 
not afraid of being measured in public opinion against the 
eloquence of the law-breaker. 

Casement, who had faltered at the start of his speech 
he had never been a practised speaker did in fact rise to 
heights of eloquence as he proceeded. " Self-government," 
he declared, "is our right, a thing born in us at birth ; 
a thing no more to be doled out to us or withheld from us 
by another people than the right to life itself than the 
right to feel the sun, or smell the flowers, or to love our 
kind." He flung a last challenge, too, to the Attorney- 
General, one time "Galloper" Smith: "The difference 
between us was that the Unionist champions chose a path 
they felt would lead to the woolsack ; while I went a road 
I knew must lead to the dock. And the event proves we 
were both right . . . And so, I am prouder to stand here 
to-day in the traitor's dock to answer this impeachment 
than to fill the place of my right honourable accuser." These 
are perhaps the words of a fanatic j but they are the words 
of a brave and steadfast man. 

Then once more the calm, steadfast voice of the Lord 
Chief Justice held the Court, this time to perform the 
grimmest task that can fall to the lot of a human being; 
but, even as the judges assumed the black cap and Lord 
Reading passed the awful sentence, " you shall be hanged 
by the neck until you be dead," Casement's face was seen 
to wear an expression of amusement Perhaps this was for 
the benefit of the spectators, for all eyes were on him now; 
or perhaps it was just relief that all was over, or even 
who knows? a sign of triumph. For had he not declared 
his pride at standing in the dock? At any rate, a contem 
porary account records its " irresistible " impression that as 
he disappeared from sight under sentence of death he was 
still untouched by contrition and was less harrowed by 



TREASON OF ROGER CASEMENT 383 

emotion than those, who had gazed upon him, had been 
moved by the scene in which they had played a part." 

Casement was taken back to prison, and there, helped by 
the Catholic chaplain, he attained a contentment which had 
been denied to his feverish activities. The case was heard 
on appeal ^ and argued with considerable skill by Serjeant 
Sullivan j inevitably, however, it was lost. And on the 3rd 
of August, at eight in the morning, Casement Sir Roger 
no longer was hanged at Pentonville. 

^ Casement died at peace, but he left controversy behind 
him. In the interval between his sentence and his execution, 
several petitions for his reprieve were put in and obtained 
a distinguished list of signatures. The general line of 
argument was one of expediency, that his execution, so long 
after the crushing of the Irish insurrection, would be inter 
preted as a vindictive act and would have a bad effect on 
Anglo-Irish relations j this was supported by an additional 
claim that Casement had become unbalanced by his labours 
in the unhealthy climate of the Congo and the Putumayo. 
The^Crown prerogative of mercy could, of course, have been 
legitimately exercised on this, as on other, occasions. But 
neither of these two reasons for its exercise seem particularly 
strong. It is difficult to imagine how any but the most 
prejudiced person could interpret as an act of vengeance the 
execution of a man who had conspired against the State in 
the hour of its peril and who had nevertheless been tried 
with scrupulous fairness and defended with great skill and 
distinction j nor can his execution be viewed as an act of 
particular barbarity, when it is remembered that his actions 
had been calculated to bring to Ireland too the welter of 
bloodshed with which Europe was already surfeited. 

But there are many who are not content with urging that 
Casement should have been reprieved. They claim that 
he was " entitled " to be treated as a prisoner of war, who 
was captured in an act of warfare. Thus Clement Shorter, 
who in 1922 published privately twenty-five copies of 
Bernard Shaw's " Discarded Defence of Roger Casement," 
writes: "That Casement should have been treated as a 



384 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

prisoner of war I hold to be indisputable. The recent 
recognition of Ireland's rights as a Free State makes that 
plea doubly justified." What possible connection the crea 
tion of the Irish Free State in 1922 has with the conviction 
of Casement in 1916 it is difficult to imagine ; as well suggest 
that the Germans would not have been justified in executing 
traitors in Alsace in 1916 because in 1919 it passed to the 
French ! 

Mr Shaw takes the same line and in his "Defence" 
suggests that that was the plea which Casement should have 
advanced at the trial. " I saw," he writes, " that if he left 
himself in the hands of the lawyers, they would make a 
mess of it; and they did." In point of fact, they were far 
from making a mess of it. Casement's best chance 
undoubtedly lay in a technical objection, and the defence 
strove to establish it with great industry and ingenuity; 
when that failed his counsel put the " Irish " point of view 
with eloquence and courage. But Mr Shaw would have 
waived all this, and relied solely on a defence which had no 
possible foundation in law. He would have had Casement 
say to the jury: " The Lord Chief Justice will presently 
tell you ... he will tell you as he must that legally I am a 
traitor. But history will not on that account absolve you 
from the most sacred duty of a jury; the duty of standing 
on the side of right, truth and justice between all honest 
laymen and that part of the law that was made against their 
own consent to destroy them." Unfortunately, the " sacred 
duty " of the jury is a much less grandiloquent thing than 
Mr Shaw seems to imagine; it consists in finding on the facts 
in a given case and bringing in a verdict in accordance with 
the law and with their finding of the facts. And this is 
precisely what the jury in the Casement trial, assisted by 
Lord Reading, did. If Mr Shaw's view of the duty of a 
jury were to become current, then every verdict might 
depend on the political and sociological idiosyncrasies of an 
individual grocer; and that is a chaos from which even Mr 
Shaw's independent mentality might recoil. 

But apart from the legal aspect, the Shorter-Shaw view, 



TREASON OF ROGER CASEMENT 385 

if it may be so termed, is absurd. For briefly what they 
say is this: " The act of treason is often committed by high- 
minded and brave men, who, in the event of success 
especially if their treason takes the form of trying to win 
independence for a small community from a big are 
usually treated like heroes. It is, therefore, clearly wrong 
to treat such romantic acts as vulgar crime, and such heroic 
individuals as common criminals. To applaud Garibaldi 
and to execute Casement is sheer hypocrisy.' 3 But this 
argument really misses the whole point. Garibaldi was 
applauded in England because he was not a rebel against 
England j he was a rebel against Austria, and nobody would 
have suggested that Austria would not have been right in 
executing him, if the chance had arisen. Indeed England 
applauded Garibaldi partly because of the risk he ran of 
being executed by the Austrians. If, on the other hand, the 
traitor is always to be excused punishment because of his 
bravery in risking it, then he need no longer even be a brave 
man. If there is no danger, there is no bra very j if there 
is no bravery, there is no need for applause. You cannot 
at the same time hold people up as heroes and demand that 
they be allowed the privileged treatment of " heads I win, 
tails you lose." 

If Casement had been treated as a spy or a prisoner of 
war, it would as Mr Shaw recognises have implied a 
recognition of Ireland as a nation at war. Ireland was at 
war, but it was at war side by side with England, as fellow 
peoples of the British Empire. But, apart from this, no 
action implying Irish independent sovereignty when none 
such in fact existed, could possibly have been contemplated. 
A great nation does not grant independence as a side wind 5 
nor should it give it in obedience to a threat of arms. It 
should give it, if give it it does, as a free gift j but until that 
time sedition and treason should be treated as the crimes 
which in law they are. Casement, therefore, was properly 
tried, and rightly executed. And those who would have had 
him treated otherwise miss the proper significance of the 
Casement trial, which is that it demonstrated once again 



386 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

that the act of treason is not incompatible with courage and 
high qualities, and that neither the stress of war nor the 
violence of popular prejudice can shake for a moment the 
full operation of the law and the fair administration of 
justice in this country. 



CHAPTER XXVII 

CONCLUSION AND ESTIMATE 

THE Casement case was the greatest and most drama 
tic of the trials presided over by Lord Reading as 
Lord Chief Justice. It was, however, by no means 
the last, although circumstances made his tenure of office 
less active judicially than is customary. For in 1917 he 
was appointed Special Envoy to the United States, which 
was by that time an ally in the prosecution of the War, and 
he continued there as High Commissioner until the end of 
the War. He returned to England in August of 1918, 
and before he was due to return to America the Armistice 
had been signed. This, of course, changed the complexion 
of events entirely. The appointment of so high a legal 
officer as High Commissioner had been justified only by the 
great emergency of War; and even so there had been those 
who were critical of the Lord Chief Justice's absenteeism. 
Consequently, when the War was over, it was to be expected 
that Lord Reading would resume the duties of his legal 
office. His return to America, therefore, which did not take 
place till February, 1919, was only for a short stay, in order 
to arrange for a final departure 3 and by the Spring he was 
back again in London to preside once more in the Lord 
Chief Justice's Court. He was by this time nearing his 
sixtieth birthday, and it might well have seemed that the 
Bench would claim him for the rest of his active life. But 
once again the imperious finger of Destiny beckoned him 
from his apparent course j beckoned him this time to the 
responsibility, the gorgeousness and the complexity of vice 
regal office. 

His appointment as Viceroy was made in January, 19215 
but before this he had sat in a considerable number of cases 
as Lord Chief Justice. The most interesting of these was 

387 



388 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

the case famous in criminal law, of Rex v. Beard. Beard 
had suffocated and killed a girl, while raping her j he was 
intoxicated at the time, and, although intoxication is ordin 
arily no defence for a criminal act, it can be a defence to those 
particular crimes, for the commission of which a special 
intent is necessary. Now murder falls into this category, 
for it consists, in Lord Chief Justice Coke's famous definition, 
in " unlawfully killing a reasonable creature, in being and 
under the King's peace, with malice aforethought express or 
implied, the death following within a year and a day." The 
question, therefore, was: had Beard by killing the girl 
committed murder? Or did his state of intoxication pre 
clude the forming of the intention or " malice afore 
thought? " That was the issue, which Lord Reading had 
to determine. A recent case, Rex v. Meade, had decided 
that, where the evidence shows that the killer is too drunk 
to form the intention, the killing is not murder, but man 
slaughter ; Lord Reading followed this case, and reduced 
the finding of the Court of Instance from murder to man 
slaughter. The case was further argued in the House of 
Lords, and in a notable judgment Lord Birkenhead, then 
Lord Chancellor, reversed Lord Reading's decision. He 
did this on the grounds that although Beard was too drunk 
to form the intent to kill, he had not been too drunk to 
form the intent to commit rape^ and since rape is a felony, 
and since killing in the course of committing a felony is in 
law murder, Beard was guilty of murder. A curious feature 
of the case was that Lord Reading sat both in the Court 
of Criminal Appeal and in the House of Lords. It might 
have been expected, therefore, that he would have criticised 
Lord Birkenhead's judgment, and defended the one which 
he had himself given in the lower Court 5 but, in point of 
fact, on the conclusion of Lord Birkenhead's judgment, 
he merely said, " My Lords, I agree with my noble and 
learned friend on the Woolsack and have nothing to add." 
He had the unusual experience, therefore, of acquiescing 
completely in the reversal of his own judgment. 

His American and other preoccupations did not prevent 



CONCLUSION AND ESTIMATE 389 

Lord Reading from presiding over many interesting cases 
and delivering a number of valuable judgments, notable 
among them in addition to those already referred to, his 
judgment in Rex v. Christie, which decided certain points 
of ^ first importance in connection with the admissibility of 
evidence. . Nor was it his absence and other duties which 
prevented him from being a great Lord Chief Justice 5 in 
point of fact, he was not a great judge, but there is reason 
to suppose that he would not have been one in any case. 
He was a good judge, and a learned lawyer; but he was not 
in the class of Cockburn or Campbell. He had neither the 
monumental legal erudition nor the literary ability to make 
judgments of the very first rank. Of course, in being rather 
less good on the Bench than he had been in practice in the 
Courts, Lord Reading was not widely different from the 
mass of very successful advocates, who became judges 5 
there are, however, notable exceptions to this rule such as 
Lord Russell of Killowein and Lord Birkenhead. But to 
have expected Lord Reading to have been as successful on 
the Bench as Rufus Isaacs had been in the Courts would 
perhaps have been over-exacting. 

Lord Reading's activities in America encroached upon his 
legal duties 5 his appointment as Viceroy of India severed 
finally his active connection with the legal profession. With 
America and India this volume is not concerned; nor has 
the time in any case arrived to attempt an exact estimate 
of his services in these directions; and if this is true of war 
time negotiations it is especially true of the Viceroyalty, for 
all that has happened in India since the War is a matter of 
acute and urgent controversy. To see these things truly 
one must stand further off; they must be allowed time to 
unfold themselves before the broader background of 
History. Nor would it be possible, or becoming, to attempt, 
in Lord Reading's lifetime, an intimate picture of his 
domestic life. But it is otherwise with his legal career; 
concluded now some twelve years since, it occupied over 
thirty years of the prime of a vigorous manhood. The events 
and importance of that career fall more easily into focus. It 



390 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

is not premature to attempt an exact account and final 
estimate of that; to provide it has been the purpose of this 
volume* 

Rufus Isaacs' legal career was as varied as it was success 
ful. Pursuit of it has taken us into the intricacies of 
commerce and the secrets of domesticity, into the councils 
of crooks and the scheming of traitors. It has inflected 
for us the ordinary and the exceptional, the lives of the 
individual and the interests of the nation. We have fol 
lowed it into sombre Trade Union disputes and into the 
sprightlier, if more evanescent, bickerings of the Turf. 
Indeed no department of life is too remote or too lofty to 
engage the attention of a great legal career. And a great 
legal career Rufus Isaacs' undoubtedly was; in range and 
extent it outstripped nearly all rivals. Its greatness was 
wider than Marshall Hall's, stronger than Lawson Walton's, 
based on a firmer foundation than Sir Edward Clarke's. 
Even F. E. Smith, so greatly his superior in the House of 
Commons, never attained quite his position at the Bar. Of 
his contemporaries only Carson challenges comparison; 
these two, since Lord Russell of Killowen, reign supreme. 

Th>e greatness of his legal career Rufus Isaacs was unable 
to transfer to the political field. He was not a House of 
Commons man, and the reasons for his comparative failure 
in Parliament have already appeared. Fundamentally, it 
was a question of temperament. He was not a leader, and 
therefore could only be an executant statesman; the inspira 
tion had to come from elsewhere. It is thus not surprising 
that his later appointments flow from his success at the Bar. 
He was made a Law Officer of the Crown not so much in 
recognition of his political services as because he was in fact 
the leader of his profession; and it was that appointment 
which gave him his chance of distinction outside the purely 
legal and personal sphere of private practice. It is not too 
much to say, therefore, that the superstructure of his later 
career was broadbased on the great position which he had 
won in the Courts. 

In writing of Rufus Isaacs' legal career, one is not writing 



CONCLUSION AND ESTIMATE 391 

merely a social document, nor merely the history of romantic 
achievement , it is as if one were composing at the same time 
a recipe for success. The success is undoubted j but how was 
it achieved? We have seen something of the armoury of 
his equipment, of its strength and its limitations. He had 
not the dominating personality of a Carson, the soaring 
eloquence of a Marshall Hall, the profound learning of a 
Sumner, nor the masterly invective of an F. E. Smith. What 
then was his secret? He had all the quieter attributes of 
success. Learned in law, quick and resourceful in argument, 
penetrative in cross-examination, he had the indispensable 
adjuncts of forensic success. In addition he was possessed 
of a memory quite out of the ordinary and a capacity to 
unravel and elucidate the intricate mysteries of figures, which 
was unri vailed j in cases like the Whittaker Wright case 
he was in a class by himself. To these qualities he added a 
strength, supple and resilient rather than forceful and asser 
tive, and an unvarying self-discipline. This self-discipline 
has been of enormous service to him, for it enabled him to 
husband his resources, and at the same time diminished the 
call upon them 5 there have been numerous instances in this 
volume to show how his tactics on occasion differed from 
those that would have been employed by less restrained 
advocates. With Rufus Isaacs it was in the Courts as in his 
conduct of life: he did not challenge ; he charmed. And, 
as a result, opposition did not yield it did not have to; 
it simply dissolved. 

It would not perhaps be true to say that Rufus Isaacs' 
mental attributes amounted to the possession of a first-class 
mind. Brought up outside the academic tradition, his stock 
of learning is slender compared to cite politicians only 
with Lord Balfour's, Lord Haldane's, or Lord Oxford's. 
More important than that, however, he has not their interest 
in thought for its own sake 5 his mind has not busied itself, 
like theirs, with abstract issues. A marutnay have a genius 
for the mechanism of politics or the mechanisms of science; 
but unless he can apply it philosophically, he has not a first- 
rate mind, Rufus Isaacs had a gerfius for the Courts, 



392 LORD READING AND HIS CASES 

perhaps a comprehensive genius for affairs, where the end 
was clear, his mind was adept. at devising the means. In 
application he has combined the readiness and versatility of 
the terrier with the tenacity of the mastiff. Success has come 
his way in full measure 5 it has come inevitably, for his 
talents were superbly fashioned for its attainment. What 
soever his hand has found to do, he has done with all his 
might j such, in epitome, is the career of Rufus Isaacs. 

For over seventy years he has been embarked on the 
voyage of life. In that time he has charted many seas and 
put in at many harbours. He has sailed placidly in calm 
seas and weathered high storms. Always he has shown 
adroit navigation, afraid neither to tack nor to go straight on. 
He has won the reward of his perseverance, his skill, and his 
enterprise in the richness of the cargoes that he has borne 
back, and the splendid variety of the voyages that he has 
made. He is riding still* the high seas of great affairs, and 
his sails are still set gallantly to the wind. In the nature 
of things it cannot be very long before he puts in at his 
ultimate port; but it would be a rash man who would say 
what new voyage he may not make and what new harbours 
he may touch, before he puts in at last for ever. 

*May, 1933. 



INDEX 

/VCHESON, Viscount, 102. Barnes, Justice Gorrell, 95, 

Acland, Mr, K.C., 243. 96, 101, 109. 

Adkins, Sir Ryland, 338- Barrow, Miss (Seddon Trial). 

339. Beall Prosecution, 50-52. 

Allen v. Flood, 35-46, 112. Beard, Rex v., 388. 
.Alverstone, Lord, 6ifT., yoff., Bell, Moberley, 170. 

165, 218, 268, 341, 342. Bell, Richard, M. P., 111-115. 
Amalgamated Society of Belloc, Hilaire, 236. 

Railway Servants, 111-117. Beresford, Lord Marcus, 28. 
Amery, Mr, 330, 331. Bigham, Justice (see Lord 

Anson, Sir William, 236, Mersey). 

255. Birkenhead, Lord (F. E. 

Archer-Shee Case, 190, 243- Smith), i, 36, 82, 84, 161- 

162, 172, 186, 188, 236, 
256, 3I7> 328, 332, 349> 
355, 358, 373- 388, 389, 
390, 3Qi- 
Biron, Sir Chartres, 84, 



250, 251. 

Aspinall, Butler, K.C., 307. 
Asquith, Herbert (see Lord 

Oxford and Asquith). 
Asquith, Raymond, 307. 
Astor, Col., 299. 
Avory, Justice, 51, 82-83, 
349, 374- 



Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine, 

359- 

Bodkin, Sir Archibald, 51, 
-r> 211, 374. 

JDALDWIN, Rt. Hon. Boer War, 56, 59-75, 168- 

Stanley, 8, 255. 170. 

Balfour, Lord, 157, 158, 162, Bottomley, Horatio, 133. 
163, 180, 188, 236, 254, Bowles v. Bank of England, 
256, 338, 391- 
Balfour, Jabez, 133, 137. 



322-323- 

Bradford, Mayor of, v. 
Bankes, Lord Justice (Eldon), Pickles, 37. 

62, 67, 113, 114, 170, 227. Branson, Hon. Sir G. A. H., 
Barnard, Mr, K.C., 94, no, 140, 349, 374. 



122, 125, 190, 194. 



Bray, Justice, 172. 



393 



394 INDEX 

Bright, John, 5. Chamberlain, 

Bryce T>. Bryce and Pape, 258. 

190-208. 
Buckley, Lord Justice (Baron 

Wrenbury), 138. 
Buckmaster, Lord, 338. 
Bucknill, Justice, 279, 291- 

294, 295. 

Burns, John, 180. 
Butt, Major, 299. 



Sir Austen, 

Chamberlain, Joseph, 54, 56- 
57, 59-67, !57, 160-161. 

Channell, Justice, 51, 294. 

Chetwynd, Sir George, (see 
Chetwynd-Durham Suit). 

Chetwynd-Durham Suit, 23- 
32, 92, 209. 

Chesterton, Cecil, 326, 332. 



Buxton, Major and Mrs, no. Christie, Rex v., 389. 

Churchill, Rt. Hon. Win 
ston, 159, 181, 264. 

G Clarke, Right Hon. Sir 

AD BURY v. Evening * 

Standard, 190, 224-235. 
Calif ornian, s.s., 303, 308, 



Hon. 
Edward, 24, 62ff., 94ff v 

155, 156, 390- 
Coleridge, Lord Justice, 294, 

317 

Commerce, 86ff. 
Cowley, Lord (see Hartopp 

Case) . 

Cowen, Lawrence, 86-91. 
Cox v. Wood, 30. 



Campbell-Bannerman, Sir 

Henry, 22, 56, 57, 157, 163, 

i So, 186, 187, 236-238. 
Carpathia, s.s., 303!!. 
Carson, Lord, 6, 53, yoff., 

99, 104, 116, 155, igoff., Cradock-Hartopp, Sir Chas., 

21 iff., 220, 222, 223-224, , Hartopp Divorce 

224ff., 243ff., 258, 328, 332, 

355ff-> 39^ 39 1 - 
Casement, Sir Roger, Trial 

of, 36, 153, 353-386, 387- 



Case). 

Culme-Seymour, Sir Michael, 
261-262, 267. 



Cassel, Sir Ernest, 346-352. 

Cassel, Felix, 140. 

Cave, Sir George, 349, 374 



AILY MAIL, 129, 190, 
220-224. 



, 
Cecil, Lord Hugh, 160-161, Daily News, 168-170, 225, 



256. 



262. 



Cecil, Lord Robert, 236, Darling, Lord, 151, 328. 

33 off. Darling, Lady, 264. 

Chamberlain, Arthur, v. The Davey, Lord, 43. 

Star, 59-67, 227. 



Davies, Col., 70. 



INDEX 395 

Deane, Justice Bargrave, 94, Eye-Witness, The, 326. 

100, 122, 123, 190, 201. Eyre, Mr, 152. 
Denaby Colliery Case, 165- 

r^ 168 " u- r>, i r FARWELL, Lord Justice, 

Devonshire, Duke of, 105. 

Dilke, Sir Charles, 188. 
Disraeli, 8, 54. 



112, 



Finlay, Sir Robert, K.C., 

r\ & r^ ^ o- ^ A 5 1 * T 37 163, 37> 35- 

Dun-Gordon. Sir Cosmo and ^.^ . r j T- t A 

T - /rrr Fitzmaunce, Lord Edmond, 

Lady, 299, 3 o6ff. jg 

Duflferin, Lord, 136, 137. T?I T u 

T^ i Vr / T j Flower, John, 

Duke, Henry (see Lord T^__ ^ u l-i 

Merrivale). 
Duke, Sir James, 92, 210. 

Duncan, Mabel (see Bryce v. GAIETY Girl" Divorce 

Bryce and rape). 
Durham, Lord (see Chet- 

wynd-Durham Suit). 



p charles } ^ 

Sir 
^ r> 



, Swinfen, 112. 
Edwards, Clement, 113, 307. 
Egerton, Major, 28. 



Case (see Bryce v. Bryce 

and Pape). 
Ghandi, 5. 
George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd, 

5, 159, 180, 181, 182, 263ff., 

257, 327ff-i 335ff-, 358. 
Gerard, Lord, 94. 



Elections, General, 56-58, Gibbs, Bright and Co., 156. 

179-180, 240, 253-254. Gill, Charles, K.C., 82, 94, 

Election, N. Kensington, 56- 156, 211. 

58. Gladstone, 55, 239, 258, 259. 

Elections, Reading, 179-180, Glengall Iron Co. (see Allen 

240, 253-254. v. Flood). 

Elibank, Master of, 329, 335. Gordon v. Gordon and Gor- 

Elliott, George, K.C., 243. don, 119-132. 

Ellison, Dr and Mrs, 193, Gordon, Christian Frederick 



203, 204. 

Erie, Sir William, 44. 
Erleigh, Lord, 33. 
Esher, Lord, 39, 41 . 
Evans, Sir Samuel, 241. 



(Eric) (see Gordon V. Gor 
don and Gordon). 
Gordon, Lord Granville (see 
Gordon v. Gordon and 
Gordon). 



Evening Standard, Cadbury Goudie, Rex v. (see Liver- 



v., 190, 224-235. 



pool Bank Case). 



396 

Graves, Mr, 125. 
Greenwood, Lord, 307. 
Grey, Viscount, 180, 226, 

228-231, 237. 
Guggenheim, Benjamin, 299. 



INDEX 

Humble, Miss Margaret (see 
Gordon v. Gordon and 
Gordon) 

Humphreys, Justice, 276, 
374- 



Hunter, Mr, 168-170. 

HALDANE, Lord, 54, Huntley > Marquess of > II9 ' 



76, 112, 185, 1 86, 318, 342, 
391- 



IMPERIAL Tobacco Co., 



Hall, Sir Edward Marshall, 164-165. 

5ofL, 82ff., 116, '199, 270- Inderwick, Mr, K.C., 94, 
271, 276ff., 390, 391, 96, 103, 106, 109. 

Halsbury, Lord, 44-45, 47, Ingoldsby, Mr, 93. 

50. Irish Home Rule, 8, 257(1, 

Halsey v. Lewenfeld, 346. 319, 3538?. 

Harcourt, Sir William, 55. Isaacs, Gerald (see Lord 

Hardie, Keir, 185-187. Erleigh). 

Harmsworth, Sanger v., 118- Isaacs, Godfrey, 10, 324!?. 



119. 



Isaacs, Harry, 10-11, 14-15, 



Hartopp Divorce Case, 76, 324*?. 

92-111, 115, 116, 117, 122, Ismay, Bruce, 2gc)fi. 

190, 209. 

Hatry, Clarence, 133. J AME S, 



Hawkins, Justice, 43, 105. 
Hayes, Charles, 299. 
Haynes, E. S. P., 16. 
Healy, "Tim," 317. 

Henderson, Arthur, 236. T - ~. . 

TJ- TV* 11 o- T iT J oe l v * Sievier, 104, 209-2 iq. 

Heron-Maxwell, Sir John, 90. * D ' *> * * 



Lord, of Hereford, 

24ff-, 33, 155- 
Jersey, Lord, 87. 
Jeune, Sir Francis, 122, 125- 

126. 



Herschell, Lord, 45. 



John Bull, 296. 



"^7 ' ;V Jones, Sir Thomas (Art* 

Hooley, Ernest Terence, 50. J _J N _^ v 

Horridge, Justice, 172, 374. 
Howden v. Yorkshire Miners 

Association, 165-168. 
Hughes, Mr, K.C., 164. 



mus), 

KELLY-KENNY, General, 

357- 



Hughes, Sir Thomas, 171- Kennedy, Justice, 39-41. 
i? 2 ' Ker, Commissioner, 22. 



INDEX 397 

Keyset, Mr, 157, 158, 160, Lumley v. Gye, 37. 

180. Lush, Justice, 166, 224, 349. 

Kisch, Mr, 95, 98. Lynch, Col., 376, 377. 

Krause, Prosecution of Dr, Lyttleton, General, 170. 

67-75, 76, 77, 191- 
Kynoch's, 60-67. 



T 35- 

JLABOUCHERE,Rt.Hon. M'Neill, Prof., 357. 

H. H., (see Suffield V. Magniac, Mr, 27. 

Labouch&re). Makgill, Sir George, 349- 
Lambert, George, M.P., 137, 350. 

142. March, Earl of, 27, 31. 

Lambton, Hon. Francis, 102. Marconi " Scandal, " 324- 
Lambton, Hon. George, 28. 342. 

Law, Bonar, 259, 321, 339. Marjoribanks, Edward, 53, 
Lawrence, Lord Justice, 167, 85, 224, 229, 243, 245-247, 

222. 280. 

Lenin, 358. Marriot, Sir John, 255. 

Lever v. Daily Mail, 190, Masterman, Charles, 183. 

220-224. Mathew, Justice, 34. 

Leverhulme, Lord, 190, 220- Matthews, Charles, K.C., 

224. 27, 82, 156. 

Lewis, Sir George, 103, 193, Merrivale, Lord, 94, i22ff., 

197. 137, iQoff., 307. 

Liberator, The, 261-263. Mersey, Lord, Soff., isSff., 
Linaker v. Pilcher, 188. 307, 310, 313. 

Lindley, Lord, 113. Montrose, Duchess of, 28. 

Liverpool Bank Case, 77-86. Morgan, Col., 59, 168-170. 

Liverpool Daily Post, 170- Morgan, Prof. J. H., 372- 

171, 177- 374- 

Liverpool Licensing Com- Morley, John, 54, 55. 

mittee, I7i-"i78. Morning Post, 160. 

Lopes, Lord Justice, 41. Morris, Isaac, 173. 

Loreburn, Lord, 137, 185, Morten, Mr, 39, 152. 

318. Moulton, Fletcher, 164. 

Lowther, James, M.P., 27, Muir, R. D., 140, 211, 264, 

31. 276. 



398 INDEX 

Murphy, Mr, Q.C., 39. Petrie, Sir Charles, 173, 175- 

Mylius, Prosecution of, 260- 176. 

269. * Phillmore, Justice, 224. 

Pickford, Justice, 233. 

NAPIER, Mrs (see Mylius ^^Harry, 22. 

Prosecution). Pollard, Mr, 27. 

National Insurance Bill, 257- p orter v . Freudenberg, 3 45- 

258. 

Nevill, Lady Violet, 93. 



Nevinson, H. W., 227, 233. 
Northcliffe, Lord, 220, 222. 
Nunburnholme, Lord, 92-93. 

OoGERS, Dr Blake, 62, 

67* 

Ogden's " Guinea Gold " 
Case, 164-165. 

Oxford and Asquith, Lord, 5, 
54, 56, 76, 180, 182, 185, 
186, 237-238, 252, 253, 255, 
256, 326, 335, 336, 338, 34, 

39i- 
Oxford, Lady, 2. 

PALMER, G. w., 157, 

160. 

Pankhurst, Mrs, 317. 
Pape, Harold (see Bryce 7). 

Bryce and Pape). 
Parker, Justice, 323. 



Powell, Mr, K.C., 35Q-35 1 - 
Priestley, Mr, 94, 122, 131. 
Pritchard, Mr, 95. 

READING, Lord, person- 
ality, etc., 1-9; birth and 
parentage, 10; education, 
10-13; goes to sea, 13; 
early business life, 14-18; 
passage to the Bar, 18; 
marriage, 19 ; apprentice 
ship at the Bar, 20-32 ; 
becomes K.C., 47; enters 
politics, 54; political life, 
4-5, 54ff., is6ff., irgff., 
2356?., 25 iff., 3i6ff.; eleva 
tion to Viscounty, 344; as 
Viceroy to India, 4-5, 
54> 343, 387 J as Lord Chief 
Justice, 26, 343ff., 353ff-> 
387-388; as Envoy to 
U.S.A., 344, 387, 389. 



Parliament Bill, 1911, 254- Redmond, John, 258, 357, 



257- 



359> 360. 



Parnell Commission, 24, 33. Reid, Sir Robert (see Lord 

Parry, Sir Edward, 135. Loreburn). 

Pethwick-Lawrence, Mr and Rentoul, Sir Gervais, 276, 

Mrs, 316-317. 286, 288. 



INDEX 



399 



Reynolds Newspaper, 263. 
Richards, Whitmore, 62. 
Ridley, Justice, 118, 245. 
Rigby, Lord Justice, 41. 
Roberts, Lord, 68-69, 71, 73. 
Robson, Sir William, 39, 

185, 188, 241, 251. 
Romer, Mr, K.C., 323. 
Rosebery, Lord, 54, 55, 56, 

57, 2 56. 

Roskill, Mr, K.C., 350. 
Rostrom, Capt., 303. 
Rowlatt, Justice, 264, 276, 

307- 
Russell of Killowen, Lord, 

389> 390- 
Russell of Liverpool, Lord, 

170178, 227. 
Russell, Sir Charles, 

33, 62, 155. 



OAMUEL, Sir Herbert, 

i59i 181, 325-328. 
Sanger (" Lord " George, <o. 

Harmsworth, 118-119. 
Sands, Mrs (see Hartopp 

Divorce Case). 
Scott, Leslie, K.C., 350. 
Seddon, Frederick Henry, 

Trial of, 50, 104, 270-296. 
Seely, Col., 318. 
Sharpe, Thomson, 57-58. 
Shaw, G. Bernard, 355, 383- 

386. 

Shearman, Hon. Justice, 211. 
Shee, Mr, K.C., 119. 



Sherrard, Mr (see Chetwynd- 

Durham Suit). 
Sievier-Duke Action, 92. 
Sievier, Joel v., 104, 190, 209- 

220. 
Simon, Sir John, 227, 236, 

25 1 > 253, 264, 307. 
Slater Agency Case, 191. 
Smith, Capt., sooff. 
Smith, F. E. (see Lord Bir- 

kenhead). 

Smyth, Dame Ethel, 317- 
Soltykoff, Prince, 27, 31. 
Somerset, Lord Arthur, 28. 
Speyer, Sir Edgar, 346-3S 2 - 
Spicer, Sir Albert, 332, 333- 
Spilsbury, Sir Bernard, 274, 

288-289. 
Stamfordham, Lord, 263, 

267. 
Star, The, Chamberlain ?>., 

59-67, 227. 
Stead, W. T., 299. 
Strathcona, Lord, 87. 
Straus, Isidor, 299. 
Strike, General, 1926, 187. 
Suffield, Lord, v. Labouchfcre, 

86-91. 
Suffragette Agitation, 316- 

318. 

Sullivan, Serjeant, 3722. 
Sutro, Alfred, 10. 



1 AFF Vale Case, 111-117, 

159, 184, 187, 188. 
Taylor, Mr, K.C., 172. 



400 INDEX 

Times, 24, 81, 170, 221, 233, Willcox, Sir William, 274, 

3i8, 328, 34 1 - 277-279, 288-289. 

Titanic Disaster, 297-315, Williams, Francis, K.C., 

324- n 3- 

Tozer, Sir Horace, 90. Williams, Vaughan, 307- 

Trade Union Litigation, 35- Willoughby, Sir John, 93, 

46, 111-117, I55> J 56, i59> 95, ioo. 

165-168, 390. Wills, Justice, 113-115, lS 4- 

Trades Disputes Bill (1906), Wilson, Charles (Lord Nun- 

181-189, (1913) 319-322. burnholme). 

Tranby Croft Case, 31, 62, Wilson, Capt. Leslie, 253. 

92, 266. Winchelsea, Lord, 87. 

Transvaal Army Supplies Winning Post, The, 210. 

Scandal, 168-170. Witt v. Witt, 130. 

Trevethin, Lord, 27. Women's Social and Politi- 

Truth, 86ff. cal Union, 316-317. 

Wood, Charles (see Chet- 

wynd-Durham Suit). 

UNIVERSITY College Wright, Whittaker, 80, 104, 

School, 12-13. 133-154, 155, 280, 285, 307, 

Wyler v. Lewis, 223-224. 

WALTON, Sir John Law- 
son, 22, 35, 39ff-, 90, 94ff-i YORKSHIRE Miners As- 
i39ff- 155, 181, 185, 187, S0c i a ti n, Howden v., 165- 
241, 390. I6g> 

Ward, Sir E. 170. Yorkshire Miners Federa- 

Watson, Lord, 4 4-45- tion I56 . 

Watt, Hugh Case, 164. You Filso 

Weekly Dispatch, 296. * 

Wilde, Oscar, 99, 104, 127, 

153, 219. ^ANGWILL, Israel, 129. 




108557